Suggested FCJM-Participation for the Month of August, 2018
August 6 and 9—World Remembrance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
On August 6 and 9, 1945 humanity experienced a level of destructive, human-created power that changed international relationships forever. Fear of “mutually assured destruction” (MAD) became the motivation for nuclear powers like Russia and the US to avoid war. But true peace cannot be built on fear. Building relationships of respect for human dignity and diversity is the only way that true peace can be achieved. Fostering understanding and justice among people of every nation, religion and culture is required if we are to silence the guns of war and eliminate the use, and even the existence, of nuclear weapons. This is one of the urgent moral challenges of our times.
Holy One, turn our hearts away from fear, mistrust and hatred of one another as we strive for peace rooted in justice. Forgive our sin of idolatry—trusting in immoral nuclear weapons to keep us safe, rather than believing in the power of Divine Love. Open our hearts to people throughout the word, so that true peace built on love, respect, justice and solidarity will lead to the total elimination of nuclear weapons, war and violence.
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 Scaff, Count of Sasol-Rosso and his wife Portolans. Although born into nobility, Clare had a generous compassion for the poor from an early age. She was inspired by St Francis to embrace a life of radical poverty. Renouncing her wealth, she joined Francis and his followers and became a confidant of Francis. Together, they co-founded the Franciscan order. The men who joined Francis became a community of Friars Minor, and the women who joined Clare became known as the “poor Ladies of San Damiano.” Clare lived with her sisters at San Damiano, outside the safety of the walls of Assisi, in order to be with the poor. Because of Church constraints at the time, Clare and her sisters could not leave the monastery to minister to the sick, dying and suffering people. So instead, those in need were brought to San Damiano for Clare’s counsel, healing care, and gentle compassion. Francis himself often met with Clare and sought her advice. Together, their dedication to simple living, care for creation and commitment to Gospel non-violence changed the Church and the world forever. They continue to inspire many followers more than 800 years later.
God, we thank you for the inspiring life of St Clare. Her wisdom and courage call us to open our hearts to the message of the Gospel. We ask that you continue to open our hearts to the Gospel values that changed Clare’s life—reaching out to the poor and oppressed, living simply, caring for creation and embracing compassionate non-violence.
August 19—World Humanitarian Day
This Worldwide day of celebration honors the thousands of volunteers who work around the world helping people in desperate need of assistance. In many cases, these volunteers work in extremely dangerous conditions due to natural disasters, such as floods and earthquakes, or due to violent conflicts, such as war or genocide. This day honors all those who allow their hearts to be touch by the suffering experienced by another person and are moved to action. In the midst of suffering, they reach out in compassion and empathy, willing to put themselves at risk in order to help in whatever way they can. Every day, aid workers in Somalia risk death in order to get food and medicine to those suffering from the decades of civil war in that country. Aid workers in Guatemala work near a recently erupting volcano to rescue victims caught in the ash flows and collapsed buildings. One international rescue worker died and another was injured trying to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand. These and many, many more volunteers remind us that the human spirit unites us all, across neighborhoods, countries, and continents and draws us to respond when we see someone in need. May all of us do what we can to respond to human suffering whenever we encounter it.
We pray for all people suffering from injustice, violence, natural disasters and hopelessness. We pray for those who work each day to bring relief to the suffering, often at great risk to themselves. May each of us open our hearts and allow ourselves to be changed. May each find a way to alleviate the suffering of others and to transform our world through the power of love.
August 23—International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition
This date is significant because, during 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. It was a successful anti-slavery and anti-colonial insurrection by self-liberated slaves against French colonial rule in Saint-Domingue, now the sovereign nation of Haiti. It began in 1791 and ended in 1804 with the former colony's independence. It was the only slave uprising that led to the founding of a state, which was both free from slavery, and ruled by non-whites and former captives. It is now widely seen as a defining moment in the history of racism in the Atlantic World.
On this day, we remember the struggle for freedom so inherent in the human spirit. We recall the suffering endured by those ripped from their homelands and forced to endure the Atlantic crossing in misery of heart and body. Abolition of slavery has unfortunately failed to end slavery. Many people in every country on earth still suffer from forced sexual or labor exploitation. Human trafficking, modern day slavery, continues to enrich a few at the expense of much human suffering. On this day, let us rededicate ourselves to ending slavery in all its forms. Let respect for human dignity open the hearts of all people so that freedom and love can flourish in our world.
Holy One, as we live each day, may we grow in love and respect for all people. Comfort those who are forced to live without freedom. Help each of us to act justly toward all and to report instances of human trafficking whenever we encounter it. Help us to work tirelessly to support and acknowledge those who have suffered because of slavery, recognizing that such trauma affects many generations beyond emancipation. Help us to see you in every person we meet.
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. In many parts of the world, including in the USA, women are in many ways still treated as second class citizens. Women often earn less than their male counterparts in the work place who do the exact same work. Girls are often not able to go to school, because a boy’s education is deemed more valued. Women cannot drive a car, sign a contract, work outside the home or be politically active in many countries. In the Sustainable Development Goals of 2015, the United Nations Goal # 5 states: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. It was recognized by those who working on sustainable development that the other goals could not be realized unless and until women and girls are treated as full and equal participants in creating the future that we desire.
God, we pray that woman and girls throughout the world will be treated with full equality and respect and given every opportunity to reach their full potential. May every woman enjoy full human rights, recognizing that “women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights, once and for all.” (Hilary Rodham-Clinton in Beijing, 1995) Help us to empower all women so that together we can build the world that we desire.
August 29—International Day Against Nuclear Tests
Nuclear weapons have become the scourge of our modern world. They have been used to intimidate other countries. Nuclear weapons threaten the globe with annihilation and contaminate the earth with radiation. Their development has continued to consume the wealth of many nations, diverting resources from peaceful, personal, social and economic development, from healthcare and education, and from care of the Earth. These weapons of war have the potential to destroy our planet, making not only their use, but their manufacture and possession immoral. It is time for the citizens of earth to demand a total ban on nuclear weapons. On July 7th, 2017 the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was adopted by the UN. In the year since, we’ve made great progress towards enforcement and the stigmatization of nuclear weapons. But there is still work to be done.
God, we ask that humankind may turn from violence to peace, from weapons of mass destruction to massive efforts to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and give hope to the hopeless. Change our hearts so that we trust in you and your love for us, rather than trusting in nuclear weapons. May we turn our creative energies to serving the needs of one another. May we forever reject nuclear weapons.
August 30—International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances
Secret, forced disappearances are a clear violation of human rights and have been condemned by the United Nations. These disappearances have been used as a means of intimidation, not only targeting the victims, but their families and communities. Victims are often tortured and many are eventually killed. Families are left to wonder what happened to their loved ones and where they might be.
Often, warnings are left behind so that the family and community are intimidated into compliance with the wishes of the perpetrators. Such tactics may be employed by governments against their own people in order to subjugate citizens and to silence protest. The UN clearly supports the right of citizens to know the charges against them when they are taken into custody, the right to a just judicial process, and condemns the use of torture. Human dignity demands that families know where loved ones are being held and that they are being treated with basic respect. Forced disappearances, unfortunately, continue to occur in many countries around the world. Of particular concern are:
- the ongoing harassment of human rights defenders, relatives of victims, witnesses and legal counsel dealing with cases of enforced disappearance;
- the use by States of counter-terrorist activities as an excuse for breaching their obligations;
- and the still widespread impunity for enforced disappearance.
On 21 December 2010, by its resolution 65/209 the UN General Assembly expressed its deep concern about the increase in enforced or involuntary disappearances in various regions of the world, including arrest, detention and abduction, when these are part of or amount to enforced disappearances, and by the growing number of reports concerning harassment, ill-treatment and intimidation of witnesses of disappearances or relatives of persons who have disappeared.
By the same resolution the Assembly welcomed the adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and decided to declare 30 August the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, to be observed beginning in 2011.
Let us pray for all victims of forced disappearances, for their families and for their communities. May all of us raise our voices in solidarity with them to demand an end to state-sponsored secret arrests, torture, intimidation and terrorism. May all who mourn for loved ones taken from them be comforted and strengthened. May all of us who believe in the inherent dignity of the human person do whatever we can to protect human rights, free prisoners held in secret and without charges, and work to create a more just world where every person is respected.
Suggested FCJM-Participation for the Month of July, 2018
July 11—World Population Day
June 11th, World Population Day, seeks to raise awareness of issues around world population. Today, Earth is home to over 7.6 billion people. In spite of the fact that the world’s population has grown by over 58.5 million people this year, the planet still is capable of producing more than enough food to feed the world’s population. With international cooperation, planning and coordination, hunger could be eliminated by the year 2030, as called for by the Sustainable Development Goals. However, wars and other conflicts hinder planting and harvesting of crops and hamper food distribution. Ending such conflicts are critical to addressing the needs of the world’s expanding population. As populations continue to grow, waste management worldwide is critical to protecting the environment. Caring for creation demands that we return to the use of biodegradable products and move away from the use of plastics and fossil fuels. It seems clear that the earth cannot sustain the level of population growth presently being seen and our Catholic Church has yet to address this growing critical issue. Although the “rhythm” method of family planning is approved by the Church, few people are educated about how to appropriately and effectively use this method. It is 75-87% effective when used correctly. Access to reproductive health education is a growing need worldwide and allows women to make a choice about how to address their health needs.
God, we thank you for the gift of life that we share with all creation. We rededicate ourselves to addressing the needs of the world’s ever-increasing population—the need for food, clean water and air, safe environments in which to plant, grow and harvest. Thank you for Mother Earth who sustains and provides for us. May we recognize your presence in one another and in all that you have made!
July 18—Birthday of Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in Mvezo, to the Thembu royal family. Educated as a lawyer, Mandela joined the struggle against apartheid in 1943. In 1964 he was sentenced to life at hard labor at the notorious Robben Island Prison in S Africa for attempted violent overthrow of the government. At his trial, Mandela said:
I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live. But, my Lord, if it need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
From his prison cell he continued to work for an end to apartheid in S Africa. He came to realize that non-violence was the only route to lasting peace, and negotiated from behind bars for freedom and equality for all South Africans. After his release from prison he was successful at negotiating a formal end to apartheid and the creation of a democratic and free country. After an open and free political campaign, he was elected and inaugurated in 1994 as the first black president of South Africa. He became a symbol for people throughout the world who struggle for justice in the midst of oppression. His struggle also proved again that non-violent, peaceful transitions of power can lift up an entire country and make reconciliation possible.
Holy One, we commend to your love all those who suffer throughout the world from injustice, hatred, fear, and hopelessness. May we courageously and persistently work for peace and justice, no matter how far from reality it seems. Like Nelson Mandela, inspire us to hold on to what we know is right, to work for what we know is possible, and to create the world we wish to live in.
July 30—International Day of Friendship
The International Day of Friendship was proclaimed in 2011 by the UN General Assembly with the idea that friendship between people, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities. Forces of division often used to divide us from one another include nationalism, poverty, violence, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political affiliations, religion, educational level, and race. This day of international friendship is a day for tearing down those barriers that keep us apart. It is a day for getting to know others who are “different” from ourselves. Through creating these broadening relationships, we are able to learn to love and respect each other. By promoting a shared spirit of solidarity and strong ties of trust, we can create a world of peace, understanding, respect and cooperation.
God, we thank you for creating such a wonderful diversity in our human family. Help us to reach out in solidarity to one another, forging friendships across all barriers. Give us the grace to see what we share in common, rather than allowing ourselves to be divided by what is different. Help us to recognize that diversity is a gift, and that unity and solidarity strengthen us as we create harmony and build peace.
July 30—World Day Against Trafficking in Persons
On July 30th every year, the United Nations promotes World Day Against Trafficking Persons. Human trafficking is a crime that exploits women, children and men for numerous purposes including forced labor and sex. It is a modern-day form of slavery. It is estimated that there are over 21 million people globally suffering from forced labor, many of them children. This number includes those forced into sexual exploitation. It is estimated that 71% of trafficking victims are women and girls. Trafficking occurs in every country and its victims are from every nation. The world migration crisis has also led to an increase in migrant smuggling and vulnerable people being held against their will in forced labor, particularly in the sex trade. This day is dedicated to raising awareness about this worldwide scourge. Citizens of every nation need to raise their voices to demand that governments work tirelessly to put an end to trafficking in persons. Perpetrators need to be arrested and held accountable, whether they are small time operators working only for themselves, or representatives working for large manufacturing or agricultural companies. This is also a day for each of us to learn to recognize signs of possible trafficking and report it to authorities for investigation. Many countries have trafficking hot lines (phone numbers) where suspicious observations can be reported.
Holy One we commend to your love and protection all those affected by human trafficking. May victims be comforted and restored to full freedom. May those who exploit others by force have their hearts opened and changed. May those who “benefit” from the suffering of others be overcome with remorse and regret. May all of us work to free those in bondage and help those in desperation. May we be alert to the signs of human trafficking and have the courage to report our concerns.