International Solidarity Days-January 2021
January 1—World Day of Peace
2021 marks the 54th annual World Day of Peace. The theme is “Good Politics is at the Service of Peace.” In this year’s address, the Pope Francis appeals to the international community and every individual to foster a “culture of care” by building solidarity, and advancing justice and peace between individuals, communities, peoples and nations through active non-violence. He stresses that there can be no real and lasting peace without a culture of care based on “a common, supportive and inclusive commitment to protecting and promoting the dignity and good of all, a willingness to show care and compassion, to work for reconciliation and healing, and to advance mutual respect and acceptance.” He calls for civic engagement in order to build this culture of caring where all of us recognize and commit ourselves to caring for the good of all people and all creation. He urges us to put political pressure on leaders of local and national governments to turn away from weapons of war and destruction (particularly nuclear weapons) and to redirect our resources towards the promotion of peace and integral human development, the fight against poverty, and the provision of health care. He says it would be a courageous decision to “establish a ‘Global Fund’ with the money spent on weapons and other military expenditures, in order to permanently eliminate hunger and contribute to the development of the poorest countries!” This message is not an abstract call for peace, but a concrete challenge that calls us to act now for the common good.
Merciful God, grant us merciful hearts so that we can live in right relationship with each other and with all creation. Help us to turn away from war and toward solidarity and the rebuilding of right relationships, so that peace based on respect, healing, dignity, love and compassion will transform our world.
January 15—Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has become an international day of hope around the world. Like Gandhi, Dr. King’s non-violent struggle for racial justice and world peace has inspired solidarity movements throughout the world. When he was killed by an assassin’s bullet in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968, he was working on behalf of the city’s sanitation workers, for safer working conditions and a living wage, after a worker had been killed on the job. Martin Luther King Jr. also spoke out against the Vietnam War which was raging at the time. He recognized that non-violent resistance to war and active peacebuilding were the only paths to justice and lasting peace. This message continues to inspire millions across the globe today.
Holy one, we thank you for the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Give us the strength and courage to meet fear with understanding, hatred with compassion, injury with forgiveness, despair with hope and violence with love.
January 24th —World Leprosy Day
World Leprosy Day is held on the January 24th, to raise consciousness about leprosy, also known as Hansen’s Disease. Even today, when treatments can cure this dread disease, fear, discrimination and misunderstanding often prevent its victims from seeking treatment early. Such delays can lead to disfigurement and life-long disabilities even after the infection has cleared. In some parts of the world, people who have been cured are still shunned due to age-old fears that persist in their communities. Because of leprosy, there are people who have been separated from their families; who have been unable to continue at school; who have lost their jobs; and who have missed out on the chance of marriage. After they have been cured, they are labeled ‘ex-patients’ and continue to face discrimination. The World Health Organization, in cooperation with many humanitarian groups throughout the world is working to educate and to urge people to seek early treatment so that one day leprosy will disappear from the earth. We still have a long way to go to reach this goal.
Divine healer, we pray for all those who suffer from leprosy. May they be freed from fear and inspired to seek help and treatment early. We pray that treatment efforts be available to everyone so that communities can overcome ancient fears and be willing to care for one another with compassion. We pray also for a world free from the scourge of leprosy and the many disabilities it can bring. Help us to do whatever we can to “embrace the leper” as Saint Francis did, overcoming our own fears and extending love.
January 27—International Day of Commemoration of the Victims of the Holocaust
International Day of Commemoration of the Victims of the Holocaust is held on January 27, the date in 1945 when Soviet troops liberated the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. It is a solemn day honoring the calamity of the Holocaust that took place during the World War II. It is a day on which we remember the brutality and violence that human beings are capable of. We recall the genocide that claimed the lives of nearly 9,000 homosexual men, 250,000 physically and mentally disabled people, 200,000 Romans, 3 million ethnic Poles, 5 million Slavs and 6 million Jews by the Nazi regime and its accomplices. As we examine history, we realize what horror and violence can result from racism, bigotry, scapegoating, prejudice and hatred. This day calls all of us to examine our own prejudices and hatreds and leads us to conversion of heart so that such atrocities will never happen again. We must never allow such forces of evil to exist and grow unchecked — in our own hearts, in our families or in our communities. Together, we must guard against and condemn all attempts to divide us from one another. As the COVID 19 pandemic has shown us, what affects one of us, affects all. As survivors of the holocaust die, let us keep their stories alive and realize that silence is never an option in the face of such evil. Let us live as brothers and sisters, extending love and compassion to all people. In solidarity, let us work each day to build a world of unity in diversity and hope grounded in justice.
God, we pray for all victims of genocide, hatred, bigotry and racism. Help us to stand in solidarity with one another whenever the forces of hatred and violence threaten us or our neighbors. Give us the courage to act on behalf of all humanity in the struggle against evil, injustice and greed. Help us to keep the stories of the holocaust alive so that we and future generations will remember and learn from history, always being vigilant in order to prevent such horrors from ever happening again.
December 1—World AIDS Day
December 1, 2020 marks the 32nd global World AIDS Day to raise awareness about the continued epidemic affecting over 38 million people currently living with HIV worldwide. In 2019, there were over 1.7 million new cases reported, and over 690,000 deaths. On this day, we remember all those who have died since the disease was first recognized in 1981. We honor the loved ones who cared for the dying in the early days of the pandemic, when no treatment was available and where an AIDS diagnosis usually meant swift and certain death. We are grateful care givers, healthcare workers and scientists who worked tirelessly to bring comfort and love to those infected, who sought to dispel the stigma that often surrounded the diagnosis and who searched for effective treatment and prevention. Today, over 68% of adults living with HIV are being treated with anti-retroviral agents. However, in many communities, the new corona virus pandemic has hampered distribution and access to these life-saving medications, putting many more lives at risk. The 2020 theme for World AIDS Day is “Global Solidarity-Resilient Services”. The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling on global leaders and citizens to rally for “global solidarity” to maintain essential HIV services during COVID 19 and beyond.
Holy One, bless all those living with HIV. May they know that they are cherished and loved. Bless the healthcare workers as they provide access to nutrition and medication that is necessary to control the virus. Keep them safe from COVID 19 as they reach out to those in need. Help each of us to continue to educate others on AIDS -prevention, the importance of early treatment and adequate nutrition, and the critical role of solidarity with those living with HIV and AIDS. Most of all, we pray for a world free from this virus.
December 3—International Day of Persons with Disabilities
December 3, “A Day for All”, is a day for raising awareness of, and helping to create real opportunities for, people with disabilities. This theme strives to awaken us to the fact that disability is part of the human condition. Almost everyone will be temporarily or permanently impaired at some point in life. Despite this, few countries have adequate mechanisms to respond fully to the needs of people with disabilities. Although “disability” often means “disadvantaged”, not all are equally disadvantaged. Much depends on the context in which persons live, and whether they have equal access to health, education and employment, etc. In February the WHO held a global gathering of rehabilitation experts entitled "Rehabilitation 2030". There, they garnered the commitment of participants to help governments build comprehensive service delivery models, develop a strong multidisciplinary workforce, expand financing mechanisms and enhance health information systems, all in an attempt to meet the ever-increasing demand for rehabilitation services. Hopefully, these efforts will lead to greater quality of life for all people. Disability inclusion is an essential condition to upholding human rights, sustainable development, and peace and security. It is also central to the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to leave no one behind. The commitment to realizing the rights of persons with disabilities is not only a matter of justice; it is an investment in our common future. When building back world economies following COVID 19, let us build back better so that all persons with disabilities can live fully!
God, we thank you for our health. We pray for all those living with disabilities. Whether disabilities are great or small, everyone deserves to be a participant in their own lives and in their communities. To contribute to the common good, all must have access to the means of participation. Help us to listen and respond to the needs of others so that everyone can share in building our common future for the good of all.
December 9—International Anti-corruption Day
Corruption involves an abuse of entrusted power by dishonest or unethical conduct that leads to personal gain. Corruption at all levels is a global problem that affects not only small communities, but societies as a whole. It robs organizations of their present security and wellbeing, and often makes building the future impossible. It is estimated that nearly a trillion dollars in bribes is paid worldwide annually, and much more is lost due to fraud and deceit. Terrorism and violence are often used to sustain corruption, robbing communities of the will to invest in their common future. Ridding the world of corruption is no small task and calls for active resistance by everyone. Refusing to participate in corruption and having safe places to report it and mechanisms to address it, are the first steps towards addressing this pervasive global problem.
God, we ask you to help us create just and free societies where every person and the environment are protected by just laws applied with transparency. Help each of us to have the courage to refuse to cooperate with corruption, so that all people may live in security and freedom. Inspire elected leaders to govern with integrity and to protect their people from corruption. Help us to expect and demand ethical behavior from all elected and religious leaders, employers, and civil servants.
December 10—World Human Rights Day
This day marks the beginning of a year-long celebration of the 72nd anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. This document proclaims that certain inalienable rights are inherent in every human being. Although it does not have the force of law, it has become the international standard by which nations have agreed to judge their own progress toward building equitable, just, peaceful and prosperous societies. It establishes the equal dignity and worth of every person as the foundation for a more just world. In the Christian tradition, this principle recognizes that every person is sacred. This year’s Human Rights Day theme relates to the COVID-19 pandemic and focuses on the need to “build back better” by ensuring that Human Rights are central to recovery efforts. We will reach our common global goals only if we are able to create equal opportunities for all, address the failures exposed and exploited by COVID-19, and apply human rights standards to tackle entrenched, systematic, and intergenerational inequalities, exclusion and discrimination.
We pray for all our brothers and sisters, that we may live in peace, without fear, and in harmony with one another and with creation. We pray for open hearts, that we may honor and cherish one another as brother and sisters and provide for the common good. May we stand up for human rights everywhere so that all people may live in peace and safety.
December 18—International Migrants Day
On December 18, 1990, the UN General Assembly adopted the international convention on the protection of the rights of migrants and members of their families. There are now nearly 275 million people who have been displaced from their homes because of violence, war, racial or ethnic discrimination, religious repression, or climate change leading to starvation due to floods or drought. It is estimated that 1 of every 10 migrants are children under the age of 15. Unfortunately, many destination countries have closed their borders due to COVID 19. Others have done so as a policy choice to deny migrants entry. This is a day to call on all countries to increase the number of migrants that they will accept, and to put in place procedures for adjudicating their cases in an equitable, timely and just manner. It is also a day to recognize that all people have a right to life and safety.
Holy One, we pray for your protection and blessing on migrants throughout the world. Bless all those who seek a safe haven in which to live and to raise their families. Open our hearts to welcome migrants into our countries and communities. Open our hands to offer them welcome and assistance. Open our minds to understanding and compassion. Most of all, help us to address the situations and policies in our own countries that cause war, violence, climate change, oppression and discrimination which are the root causes of migration.
December 20—International Human Solidarity Day
Since 2005, International Human Solidarity Day is a day dedicated to celebrating global human solidarity that is centered on people & planet, underpinned by human rights and supported through global partnerships. This solidarity is essential in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are built on a foundation of international cooperation and solidarity. COVID 19 has confirmed what we already know: that what affects one, affects all.
International Human Solidarity Day is a day:
-to celebrate our unity in diversity;
-to remind governments to respect their commitments to international agreements
- to raise public awareness of the importance of solidarity
- to encourage debate on the ways to promote solidarity for the achievement of the SDGs
This is a day to recognize that we are all sisters and brothers to one another!
God, we ask that you bless all your people throughout the world in their desire for justice, peace, freedom, and protection of the environment. Continue to inspire solidarity among us so that together we can face the many challenges of our global community. Help us to listen to the myriad perspectives that our diversity brings to the conversation. Open us to new ways of thinking and being in solidarity with one another.
May the Infant of Bethlehem, whose birth we celebrate today,
Bless us all with peace, joy, love and compassion.