International Solidarity Days—September 2021
September 1—World Day of Prayer for Creation
September 1st, the World Day of Prayer for Creation, marks the beginning of the 6th annual, world-wide Season of Creation (SOC). Around the world, this season culminates on the feast of St Francis, the patron of ecology, on October 4th. This year, the theme for the SOC is “A Home For All?— Renewing the Beloved Community of God”. As we begin this special time of prayer, let us reflect on our common home. Is the community of creation truly a home for all? A home is a place of welcome. Do we extend this welcome to everyone, of every race, nation, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political view, etc.? Do we care for creation with respect, not only as our home, but home to all creatures, great and small, inanimate or living beings, water, air, land and even outer space? As we pray for creation, do we recognize that every element of creation reflects the divine presence in a unique and precious way? Today is a time to renew our relationship with our Creator and all creation through celebration, conversion, and commitment. In light of these reflections, we are encouraging awareness-raising initiatives and lifestyle changes to protect the natural environment and address the crisis of climate change. If we are to renew and restore the beloved community of God, we must do so through living in right relationship with all of creation. Our futures are inexorably linked to one another and to Earth itself. Together, let us renew the beloved community of God.
God, we praise and thank you for the wondrous gift of creation, through which you reveal your beauty and love. We recognize that planet earth is not only our home, but home to the countless creatures with which you inhabit it. We praise you for the blessed diversity that enriches us, sustains us and inspires us with awe and gratitude. Help us to renew the beloved community by welcoming and reverencing all creatures, and by so doing, live in a home open to all. Laudato Si—Praise be to You!!
September 8—World Literacy Day
Students in Santarem
World Literacy Day is dedicated to all the children of the world, raising awareness that all children have a right to basic education and literacy in order to develop their gifts fully for the common good. This year’s theme is, “Literacy for a human-centered recovery: narrowing the digital divide”. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #4 recognizes that literacy is essential to the elimination of worldwide poverty. The Covid-19 pandemic has globally disrupted learning and literacy programs on an unprecedented scale. While some adults and children have been able to continue to make progress in education due to remote learning, access to these learning opportunities have not been evenly distributed. The persistent digital divide in terms of connectivity, infrastructure, and the ability to engage with technology, as well as disparities in other services such as access to electricity, has severely limited learning options. Beyond its intrinsic importance as part of the right to education, literacy empowers individuals and improves their lives by expanding their capabilities to the fullest. Literacy can contribute to building a solid foundation for a human-centered recovery, with a special focus on the interplay of literacy and digital skills required by non-literate youth and adults. It is essential that technology-enabled literacy learning be inclusive and leave no one behind. In this way, all will be able to work together to ensure a human and creation centered recovery.
We praise you, God, for the wonderful gift of literacy. We recognize how much of our day-to- day ability to contribute to the common good requires a sound foundation of education. Thank you for all those dedicated teachers who promote literacy in every corner of the earth. Help each of us to do our part to ensure that children and adults everywhere have an opportunity to achieve literacy so that every person can grow and develop to their fullest potential. Help us to creatively address the needs that hinder remote learning so that all have access to the learning opportunities that remote learning makes possible.
September 10—World Suicide Prevention Day
According to the World Health Organization, every 40 seconds, someone takes their own life. Suicide is the leading cause of death for people 15-29 years of age. This is a staggering statistic when one considers not only the personal loss that this represents, but the overwhelming sense of loss experienced by family members, colleagues, friends, teammates and acquaintances. The theme of World Suicide Prevention Day 2021 is “Creating Hope Through Action”. By raising awareness, reducing the stigma around suicide, and encouraging well-informed action, we can reduce instances of suicide around the world. One measure that can be taken when someone expresses thoughts about suicide, or actually attempts it, is to show that you care. A contributing factor to many suicides is the belief that no one cares, and that living is only a burden on everyone. No gesture of caring or kindness is too small. Another action we can take is to try to overcome the stigma that surrounds suicide. Changing the narrative around suicide through the promotion of hope can create a more compassionate society where those in need feel more comfortable in coming forward to seek help. Encouraging someone considering suicide to seek help and assisting them to do so can save a life. Sharing stories of people who have lived with suicide can be a powerful experience and can motivate others to seek help. Personal stories of an individual’s experiences of significant emotional distress, suicidal thoughts or attempts, and their experiences of recovery can inspire hope in others that they too can move through the period of distress or crisis.
Holy One, we pray for all lonely, hopeless, and suffering people who feel that they have no way out except suicide. Open our hearts and the hearts of those who love them and give us the courage to reach out in support. Help us to guide them to professional help and sustain us all in our efforts to bring healing to the suffering, and comfort to the grieving. Bless the hopeless with hope, those in darkness with light and all of us with the comfort of your love.
September 16—International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer
The ozone layer, a fragile shield of gas, protects the Earth from the harmful portion of the rays of the sun, thus helping preserve life on the planet. Past worldwide efforts were successful at banning substances that were proven to be slowly destroying earth’s ozone layer and had resulted in a sharp rise in skin cancers (especially the deadliest form, called melanoma). This effort has led to the ozone layer slowly beginning to repair itself. Large holes that had opened over both the northern and southern hemispheres began to shrink when nations around the globe took joint action. As climate change continues to overheat our planet, change weather patterns, and threaten biodiversity, preservation of earth’s ozone layer demonstrates to us that changes in human activity can make a difference. This year, we celebrate 35 years of the Vienna Convention and 35 years of global ozone layer protection. Life on Earth would not be possible without sunlight. But the energy emanating from the sun would be too much for life on Earth to thrive were it not for the ozone layer. This stratospheric ozone layer shields Earth from most of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. Sunlight makes life possible, but the ozone layer makes life as we know it possible.
Creator God, we thank you for the gift of Earth, our common home. We also thank you for guiding our successful efforts to protect the ozone layer that shields our planet. We know that we have so much more to do. As climate change threatens our earth, lead us and our national and international leaders to take dramatic action that is necessary to address global climate change. Help us to take the message of Laudato Si to heart as we build a flourishing future that truly honors and respects all of creation.
September 21—International Day of Peace
The tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan demonstrates once again the futility of war. After 20 years of US and coalition forces waging war in that country, and after many deaths and untold suffering, the end of the war and withdrawal of foreign troops have created chaos and have left the Taliban in charge, just as they were before the war. As Pope Francis says in paragraph 233 of Fratelli Tutti, “Peace is not merely absence of war but a tireless commitment…to recognize, protect and concretely restore the dignity of all of our brother and sisters…who are the principal protagonists of the destiny of their nation.” Further, the Pope states in Paragraph 226, ”Renewed encounter does not mean returning to a time prior to conflicts… Pain and conflict transform us…. Those who were once enemies have to speak from the stark and clear truth. They have to learn how to cultivate a penitential memory, one that can accept the past…. Only by basing themselves on the historical truth of events will they be able to make a broad and persevering effort to understand one another and strive for a new synthesis for the good of all.” The path to true and lasting peace is getting people to work together, side by side, in pursuing goals that benefit everyone. Remembering and acknowledging the pain and suffering caused by conflict is the first step towards rebuilding lives, communities, and countries. War and violence only heap more suffering and injustice on individuals and societies. Dialogue, truth-telling, forgiveness, and reconciliation can restore justice and allow those who were once enemies to work together for the common good and thus bring about peace.
Holy One, on this special International Day of Peace, we pray that people will put down their weapons and that once again the sounds of birds singing will replace the deafening cacophony of explosions and gunfire. We pray for understanding, empathy, open dialogue, and honest truth-telling as we join hands with one another to create a more peaceful world. Let non-violent peacemakers become our honored heroes who bravely lead us into the ways of peace.
September 18-26—United Nations Global Sustainable Development Goals Week
September 25—United Nations 6th Anniversary of the Sustainable Development Goals
Adopted on September 25, 2015, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) outline 17 goals that must be achieved in order to eradicate extreme poverty, address inequalities, and reduce climate change worldwide by 2030. As countries look ahead towards rebuilding their economies and societies after the Covid-19 pandemic, their citizens are calling for them to “build back better”. With the climate crisis resulting in devastating fires in dry places, and unprecedented flooding due to torrential rains in other areas, it is more and more apparent that “sustainable development” will require us to abandon fossil fuels, invest in education and healthcare for the poor and dispossessed, and protect biodiversity. The SDG’s must guide international recovery efforts if we are to survive as a species.
God, inspire us to create systems of recovery that promote and advance the Sustainable Development Goals, creating sustainable systems that will protect human dignity, care for creation, and move us towards eradicating extreme poverty by 2030. Help us to take actions in our daily lives that will contribute to a sustainable future for our planet. We ask you to bless our national and international leaders so that they will have the courage to act now to restore earth, our common home, and to end extreme poverty by 2030.
August 6 and 9—World Remembrance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—76th Anniversary
These days are for remembering the only two times that nuclear weapons have been unleashed during warfare. We also remember the horrendous immediate human cost, and the continuing long-term effects on global societies. These weapons of mass destruction instantly obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing over 200,000 people, mostly civilians. Thousands more died in the following months due to burns, radiation sickness and other injuries, compounded by malnutrition and illness. Many more continued to suffer and die from the long-term effects of radiation exposure over the next 20-40 years. Since those two awful days in August 1945, untold trillions of dollars and scientific talent have been spent building more powerful and deadly nuclear weapons. Nuclear contamination of Earth and its people from nuclear weapons testing and development stretches from the Bikini and Enewetak Atolls in the Marshall Islands, to Alamogordo NM and the Nevada desert, to Tahiti in French Polynesia, to Maralinga in South Australia, to Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan. The development of ever more sophisticate weapons and delivery systems continues to consume resources that are desperately needed to care for Earth and to provide water, sanitation, housing, education, and food for people.
On July 7, 2017, at the UN General Assembly, 122 states voted to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). This treaty bans the production, use and/or possession of all nuclear weapons. Pope Francis has also condemned the possession of such weapons. Let us demand that national leaders take active steps to rid our world of these weapons of mass destruction that have the power to destroy all life on earth. Instead, let us use our limited global resources to protect biodiversity, eradicate global poverty, and address climate change.
Holy One, as we demand an end to all production, possession and use of nuclear weapons, help us to work for the common good of all people and for the protection of Earth, our common home. Lead us away from the idolatry of nuclear weapons, as if they have the power to protect us. Instead, let us build loving relationships with each other and with all of creation so that together we can live in peace.
August 11—Feast of St. Clare of Assisi
St. Clare was born in Assisi on July 16, 1194, as Chiara Offreduccio, the beautiful eldest daughter of Favorino Sciffi, Count of Sasso-Rosso and his wife Ortolana. Although born to wealth and privilege, Clare was inspired by the teachings of Francis of Assisi to live a life of radical poverty, loving service to the poor and sick, and prayer. As a co-founder with St. Francis of the Franciscan Order, Clare’s leadership made it possible for women to join this Franciscan way of life. She was determined to chart her own course for her new community of women. She insisted that her small community of women live at San Damiano, outside the protective walls of the city of Assisi, in order to be with and to serve the poor. She and her sisters provided counsel and care to all who came to their doors. Contrary to the monastic practices of the time, all Sisters were treated equally, whether they were of noble or poor birth. She spoke out to popes and bishops about her Gospel way of life and refused to compromise on what she felt God was calling her to. Through her dedication to simple living, care for creation, commitment to non-violence, and courageous service to the poor who came seeking help, she and Francis changed the Church and the world. Their prophetic witness continues to inspire followers not only in the Catholic Church, but people from diverse nations and religions, more than 800 years after their deaths.
God, we thank you for the inspiring life of St Clare. Like her, we pray to be people of integrity, never compromising on what we know to be true, but always open to new understanding and new relationships. May we live as sisters and brothers to one another and to all of creation, reverencing the divine presence that we encounter every day. Like Clare, keep us open to recognize the needs of our times and to respond with generosity, steadfastness, love and compassion.
August 19—World Humanitarian Day
As natural disasters, disease and violence continue to wreak havoc around the world, aid workers respond by personally bringing whatever relief they can, often at the risk of their own lives. World Humanitarian Day honors these selfless heroes who reach out to those in need of rescue, food and water, shelter, or medicine. They also bring a listening ear and caring hearts, comforting the suffering and offering hope to those experiencing devastation. Rebuilding lives involves much more than rebuilding homes. It requires rebuilding hope in the midst of despair, trust in the midst of betrayal, love in the midst of hatred and violence, and peace in the midst of conflict. Humanitarians leave family, friends, security, and all that is comfortable and familiar to them in order to respond to crises around the world. They rebuild lives one person and one day at a time. This day, we honor them!
God, we pray for all humanitarian workers many of whom risk their lives while reaching out to relieve the suffering of others. Protect them from harm as they bring hope and healing, compassion, and comfort, listening and love to those whose lives have been turned upside down by disease, natural disasters, violence, or war. Inspire us to assist these aid workers in whatever way we can through our prayer and our giving.
August 23—International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition
On the night of August 22 to August 23, 1791, on the island of Saint Domingue (now known as Haiti), an uprising began which set forth events which were a major factor in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. The uprising was finally successful at establishing Haiti’s independence from the French in 1804 and was the only slave uprising to give rise to a state ruled by former slaves.
Slavery was only “justifiable” by denying that all people were fully human. By fostering the idea that certain races of people were superior to others, white supremacy was able to flourish and dominate cultures, religions, societal structures, and the law. Today, we continue to live with slavery’s legacy of racism that affects so many people around the world. As we celebrate the official end of the transatlantic slave trade, we honor the innate dignity of every person. We also recognize that there is much to do to free ourselves from the lingering racism and attitudes of white supremacy that continue to “enslave” both the oppressor and the oppressed.
Holy One, bless in a special way those who suffer from the racism that remains embedded in societal structures in many parts of the world. Move us to recognize the human dignity and the divine presence in each person. Open our hearts to be a presence of peace and reconciliation. Help us to actively work to end racism within ourselves, in our communities, in our countries and in the world.
August 26—Women’s Equality Day
Women in the United States were given the right to vote on August 26, 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was signed after 72 years of struggle. In 1971 Congresswoman Bella Abzug introduced a resolution designating August 26 of each year as Women's Equality Day. This day is now celebrated around the world to honor women and to work for the rights of women to participate equally with men in all aspects of family, community, religious, social, and political life. On this day we honor those who tirelessly work for equal rights for women. Many of these brave people risk their lives to educate women and girls and to empower them to achieve their dreams. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals recognize that equal rights for women are essential to eradicating poverty and advancing the development of struggling communities. By women developing their full potential, global transformation and sustainable development are possible.
God, we pray for women and girls throughout the world who still struggle to have their voices heard. Help us to stand with our sisters through word and action, so that they can live without fear and break the bonds that hold them down. Change the hearts and minds of all people so that women are respected and educated in order to develop their full potential. We thank you for the many wonderful and heroic women who have gone before us. We stand on their shoulders as we reach for the stars!
August 29—International Day Against Nuclear Tests
The history of nuclear testing began early on the morning of July 16, 1945 at a desert test site in Alamogordo, New Mexico when the United States exploded its first atomic bomb. In the five decades between that fateful day and the opening for signature of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996, over 2,000 nuclear tests were carried out all over the world.
There is only one reason to continue to test nuclear weapons and that is the intent to use such weapons in the future. Neither offensive nor defensive use of nuclear weapons can be justified since their use in any circumstance would have the ability to destroy our planet. Radioactive contamination, which can last thousands of years, would make earth uninhabitable for humans. Knowing what we know today renders them obsolete, both morally and practically. Why do we continue to squander billions of dollars of our world’s resources on developing, deploying, “modernizing” and stockpiling these weapons which can never be used? Only North Korea continues to test nuclear weapons. It is now time to go beyond test bans and outlaw even the possession of such weapons. Our planetary life depends on it!
God, we ask for an end to our idolatry of nuclear weapons. Embolden us to demand an end to their existence. Motivate us to call on governments around the globe for an immediate end to nuclear weapons testing and an end to all production, deployment and possession of nuclear weapons. Help us to turn our attention and resources to caring for the worldwide needs of the human family and to caring for creation.
August 30—International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances
In 2010 the UN declare August 30 the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. Enforced disappearance is defined as the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law. Many victims are never heard from again. Others are later found tortured and killed. Enforced disappearances are meant to intimidate those working for justice on behalf of the poor and oppressed. Such disappearances terrorize entire populations with the intention of suppressing any attempts towards societal changes on behalf of justice. These extrajudicial actions are a violation of human rights and of international law.
Let us pray for all victims of forced disappearances, and for their families and communities as they cry out for justice, safety, and respect. Let us also pray for government and military leaders who engage in such tactics of oppression and intimidation. May they listen with their hearts to the people that they are supposed to serve. We pray also for those who carry out forced abductions and secret arrests on behalf of others. May their hearts be moved to refuse to participate in the suffering of others and may they have the courage to do what is necessary to stop such practices. Strengthen international efforts to bring perpetrators of these crimes to justice and protect all those witnesses, prosecutors, and judges who risk their lives in this effort.