April 4—International Day of Landmine Awareness & Assistance in Mine Action
This day is a special day to raise awareness of the dangers posed by landmines and other unexploded munitions. This is also a day to call on all nations to eliminate the use of landmines. It is estimated that 15,000-20,000 people are injured or killed each year in areas where war and armed conflict has officially ceased, but where landmines remain an unseen daily danger. These explosives endanger the lives of farmers planting fields, women walking to fetch water or firewood, and even children at play. Landmines also make the delivery of humanitarian aid to entire populations nearly impossible, sometimes delaying critically needed medical supplies and food for months, while landmines are found and removed. The United Nations (UN) has repeatedly called on world leaders to ban the use of landmines, which threaten innocent civilians and continue the maim and kill people for many years into the future. The UN has also urged countries to join in the international efforts to locate and eliminate landmines. Unfortunately, the process is fraught with danger, since exact locations of planted landmines are often not known. It will take many decades to rid the world of this scourge.
God of peace, open our hearts to one another so that dialogue and mutual understanding can replace armed conflict as a way to resolve our differences. Help us to seek out and destroy landmines throughout the world that continue to inflict injury and death on so many innocent people, and that violate the sanctity of Mother Earth. Teach us to treat all of your creation with respect so that everyone can live in peace and safety.
April 7—World Health Day
April 7, 2021 marks the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO). Over the past year, we have become acutely aware of the inequities experienced by so many people around the world that affect their underlying health: poor housing and education; little access to jobs that can earn a living wage; gender inequality; little access to safe environments such as clean water, adequate sanitation and clean air; food insecurity; and little or no access to healthcare. These social inequities have made many of the world’s poor extemely vulnerable to the global COVID 19 pandemic and more likely to die as a result. This year, World Health Day is focused on calling for all nations to address these social barriers to healthful living. Additionally, the WHO is also committed to ensuring that even the poorest people around the world have access to the corona virus vaccines. World health can only be achieved when affected communities and individuals work together, when we are able to reliably collect and analyse timely health data, when governments and communities address the root causes of inequities, and when we work across borders for the common good of all. In January 2021, the WHO issued a call to all countries to work together in solidarity, and in each of their best interests, to ensure that within the first 100 days of the year, vaccination of health workers and older people was underway in all countries. Today marks that 100th day!
Holy One, we pray for all those who are sick throughout the world, especially those suffering from the COVID 19 pandemic. We pray for those who suffer daily from malnutrition, water-borne diseases, and air pollution, and who often have no access to the healthcare they need. We pray for those who care for the sick and who are working tirelessly to get vaccines and treatments to poor populations everywhere.
April 12—International Day for Street Children
Street children are those who live on the streets, often sleeping in parks, doorways, or bus shelters. During the day they can be found seeking shelter in public buildings, shops, or open churches. Some street children may have homes to return to at night but rely on the streets for survival and sustenance. Almost universally, street children are looked down upon as beggars, juvenile delinquents, or thieves. With little or no access to education, basic healthcare or personal security, these children face a bleak future. During the global pandemic, many of the places where they sought refuge have been closed, making survival even more difficult. These children often seem “invisible to the conscience of the world” (Sir John Major) and this reality is indefensible. This day calls all of us to advocate for the needs of street children and to work with governments and individuals to reach out to street children, listen to their stories and address their needs. All children deserve love, care, protection, food, basic healthcare and education. This is crucial to reaching the Sustainable Development Goal of ending extreme poverty worldwide by 2030.
Loving God, protect all street children as they struggle to survive with little or no adult protection and care. Protect them from the COVID-19 pandemic. Help us as we advocate with local officials to provide access so that all street children can receive the corona virus vaccine, basic medical care and food. Open our hearts and our hands to assist projects and programs that help these children so that they can grow strong and reach their full potential.
April 22—Earth Day
April 22 marks the 51st anniversary of Earth Day. This year’s theme is: "Restore Our Earth." After withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement under the prior US president, the current President, Joseph Biden, has already rejoined the world community’s climate agreement and is hosting a climate summit on Earth Day 2021. Since the USA is one of the leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, the world community is encouraged that with this recommitment, the global efforts to save our planet can be successful. The goal of Earth Day is to empower and expand the environmental movement by motivating individuals and governments to make the urgently needed changes to stabilize the climate and to preserve Earth’s biodiversity. It will take all efforts, large and small, to address the changes that need to be made. Together, we can save Earth, our common home.
Creator God, we thank you for the gift of Earth, our common home. Strengthen our resolve and inspire our action as together we address climate change which threatens the biodiversity of our planet. We praise you for the beauty and marvels of Mother Earth. This day, we recommit ourselves to caring for creation.
International Solidarity Days – March 2021
March 8—International Women’s Day
International Women's Day (IWD) on March 8 is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality. Recognizing that challenge is necessary in bringing about change, the theme for IWD 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge—a challenged world is an alert world! We are all called to be aware of our gender bias and inequality wherever and whenever we encounter it. On this day we also seek out and celebrate the achievements of women over the world. We recognize that women’s contributions to society are essential to progress for the common good. We join action to our prayers for building an inclusive world, where every person is honored and encouraged to live up to their fullest potential, so that all may fully live.
Oh, Holy One, we thank you for the inspiration, creativity, and dedication of women everywhere as they lead the way in the struggle for justice and equality. Bless all women who continue to work to have their voices heard, their lives valued, and their wisdom expressed. Help us to stand together for the common good of all, as we create a more inclusive world.l
March 21—Week of Solidarity Against Racism and Racial Discrimination
March 21st begins the UN week of solidarity against racism and racial discrimination. Following the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations (UN) in 1948, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was the first of the major international agreements on human rights adopted by the UN General Assembly. It was adopted in 1965 and entered into force in 1969. Unfortunately, to this day, racial discrimination continues to plague the world, leaving many victims of violence and poverty in its wake. Recent world-wide events have brought attention to the often brutal results of racism, such as the deaths of African Americans in police custody in the United States, “ethnic cleansing” in Myanmar of their Rohingya minority, racial discrimination or violence in Europe, exploitation of foreign laborers from poor developing countries in Saudi Arabia, etc. Pope Francis’ recent encyclical Fratelli Tutti calls us to recognize that we are all brothers and sisters to one another. Universal human rights are based on innate universal human dignity. Using race to divide us from one another is an artificial construct based on the lie that one group is somehow superior to others. We are called to create a worldwide culture of encounter where “dialogue is the path, mutual cooperation is the code of conduct, and reciprocal understanding is the method.” (Abu Dabi address on February 3, 2019 by Pope Frances: “Human Fraternity: For World Peace and Living Together”)
Oh God, strengthen us as we continue the journey to root out all forms of racism that lingers within our own hearts. Open us to a culture of encounter, where every person is recognized as our brother or sister. Help us to actively engage in listening and sharing our stories so that we can respond to one another with compassion and understanding. As we confront racism in our own hearts, help us to also collaborate in dismantling social structures and policies based on racial discrimination.
March 22—World Water Day
This Day was established in 1993 by the UN to raise awareness among all people about the need to protect and conserve the precious gift of water. Increasingly severe droughts and disruption of long-established seasonal weather patterns have raised consciousness about the essential role of clean water sources for the survival of life on Earth. This day reminds us of our responsibility to conserve and protect fresh water sources. Rising sea levels have already contaminated the fresh water sources of many coastal communities. As glaciers and polar ice caps continue to melt, this threat is anticipated to worsen in the coming years. Even if global climate change can be stabilized, it will take decades to restore fresh water sources. Climate change also threatens the biodiversity of our oceans. Water in all its forms needs protection and conservation.
God, we praise you for sister Water. We witness Water’s power to shape earth’s canyons and coastlines. Water surrounds us with warmth and safety in our mother’s womb. Water blesses the earth with rain and sustains our life. She cleanses and refreshes us, washing over us in gentle streams. Water awes us with her beauty as waves crash against rocks or gently roll onto the shore; as she cascades down a waterfall or blankets a mountain with a soft white cloak; as she reflects the beauty of the sky and trees in her clear lakes or shrouds a valley in an early morning mist. God, we thank you and give you praise for sister Water.
March 25—International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
This UN day of remembrance has been held annually since 2008. Over 17 million Africans were transported to the Americas during the 16th to the mid-19th centuries, with many millions more dying in route. This day is for honouring those who suffered, for remembering those who lived and those who died, and for addressing societal disparities that continue to affect their descendants and whole societies. In the UN resolution 62/122 which created this day of remembrance, we seek to create a growing awareness of the extreme consequences of racism and discrimination. This day is also a time for recognizing that hope in the midst of despair and suffering makes human survival possible. The brutality and horror of the transatlantic slave trade was only made possible by denying the full human dignity of a whole race of people. It seems fitting that this day falls in the middle of the week of solidarity against racism and racial discrimination. It reminds us that our shared humanity makes us all brothers and sisters.
God, we ask forgiveness for the suffering caused to so many people by the transatlantic slave trade. Heal us all of the racism that continues to divide us from one another. Help us to respect, honor and support one another as brothers and sisters, so that we never again deny the full and equal humanity of anyone based on race, ethnicity, religion, or gender. Help us to work tirelessly to create a world of justice where all people are respected. Help us to repair the social structures that continue to affect descendants of former slaves and to restore equal opportunities for growth and social flourishing which have been too long denied.