International Solidarity Days – May 2021
May 1—International Workers’ Day
International Workers’ Day is a special day to honor laborers around the world for their struggle for justice. The struggles over the years have included demands for an 8-hour working day, with the right to overtime pay for work beyond that, safe working conditions, and end to child labor, the right to organize and form unions, the right to share their concerns with management and employers and the right to job security and sick leave. Many of these accomplishments in securing modern labor rights were earned after much struggle and determination, often at the risk of death. In many parts of the world these rights are still not a reality. Many attempts to destroy labor unions and roll back workers’ rights continue today. As we celebrate International Workers’ Day, let us remember how much we all depend on the hard work and labor of others. Let us stand in solidarity with workers around the world to protect their jobs, safety and health. In the midst of COVID 19, let us also insist that workers have the protective equipment and workplace policies to protect them from the pandemic.
God of justice, we thank you for the brave men and women whose work sustains our families and communities and who make our social structures possible. Bless all those who work for justice in the workplace to keep workers safe, to be sure everyone has an opportunity to earn a living wage and to have a voice in their own futures. Bless all essential workers in this time of COVID-19. Keep them safe from illness as they serve all of us by their dedicated work. Inspire us to show our appreciation whenever we can, so that all workers feel supported and respected.
May 15—The 90th Anniversary of Quadragesimo Anno
On May 15, 1931, Pope Pius XI published his encyclical Quadreagesimo Anno (QA) on the 40th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum. These two encyclicals outlined the moral principles that should inform a just development of the social order that was emerging following the industrial revolution. In QA, Pope Pius XI addressed issues such as private property and the common good, the rights and responsibilities related to capital and labor, the right to work as a human right, and the right for workers to earn a living wage for themselves and their families. In our present world where many countries have no minimum wage laws, or where the legal minimum wage for workers is not a living wage capable of providing the worker and his/her family with the essentials of life, this encyclical continues to challenge us. QA further highlighted the essential role of labor in creating capital, and capital’s essential role in creating flourishing economies. It also called on governments to ensure the common good by taxation and equitable redistribution of goods and services while building and maintaining infrastructures needed to support all members of society. The widening gulf between rich and poor highlights the failure of many societies to live up to these principles. Today is a day to remember the messages of QA, and to call on governments, capital and labor to come together for the sake of the common good and for the good of Earth herself. Today we recognize that care for creation is an essential moral principle that must guide development, even though it was not included in QA.
Holy One, we pray for the poor who suffer most from the imbalance of power and wealth created by the globalization of indifference. Inspire those who lead governments and those who control capital to listen to the poor and representatives of labor, in order to build a sustainable future that is just and compassionate.
May 21—Feast of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter
Franz Jägerstätter was born in Austria in the early years of the 20th century. Like St Francis, he had a rather wild youth, joining a motorcycle gang and often disturbing the peace of his little village. After marrying, he seemed to settle down, working as a farmer, studying scripture and becoming a third order secular Franciscan. He took the Gospel and Franciscan message of non-violence to heart just as the Nazi party was coming to power in Germany. It was not long before the Nazis annexed Austria. Like many Austrians, he quickly learned of their activities and intentions. His commitment to Gospel values led him to refuse mandatory military service, which he saw as a form of complicity with the Nazi regime. In spite of the fact that he had a wife and three daughters, he continued to follow his conscience. He was arrested and later beheaded for treason on August 9, 1943 at the age of 36. It is said that when his attorney advised him that other Catholics were serving in the army, Franz responded, “I can only act on my own conscience. I do not judge anyone. I can only judge myself.” He continued, “I have considered my family. I have prayed and put myself and my family in God’s hands. I know that, if I do what I think God wants me to do, he will take care of my family.” The story of his bravery and commitment to nonviolence has inspired many people over the years. His life and death remind us that the price of Gospel living can be great and may even cost us our lives. May we always live with integrity, sowing hope and love in our world. May we recognize that only love can overcome fear, hatred, and violence.
Loving God, we pray for an end to injustice, intimidation, violence and war. We recommit ourselves to Gospel love, compassion and peace-making. Awaken us to the power of your love within us to transform our world. Lead us into the way of peace.
May 22—International Day for Biological Diversity
This year, the theme for International Day for Biological Diversity is “We’re Part of the Solution.” At this time in human history, global climate change due to human activities poses an extreme threat to biodiversity. We also recognize that biodiversity is essential to maintaining our own health as well as the health of ecosystems. Safeguarding biodiversity is not only the job of governments. We can all make a difference by the choices we make every day. There are 3 objectives of the UN Convention on Biodiversity: the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. Actions can include large scale actions like restoring degraded ecosystems or setting aside protected areas, to individual actions such as planting pollen and nectar plants and eliminating pesticides that threaten birds and bees. They could also include targeted measures addressing direct or indirect causes of biodiversity loss such as environmental pollution. In many areas of the world, efforts are being made to restore traditional, sustainable farming methods, as well as teaching modern techniques that can help protect biodiversity during extreme weather events. Businesses are also being asked to integrate sustainability into their business models, decision-making, sourcing and production methods.
International Solidarity Days – April 2021
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.