Suggested FCJM-Participation for the Month of February, 2018
February 6—International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation
February 6th is a day to promote worldwide awareness of female genital mutilation (FGM) and to promote its eradication. Although practiced for over 1000 years, this practice is now recognized as a violation of the rights of women and girls to have control over their own bodies and as a form of violence against women and girls. The effort to eliminate this practice is part of the struggle against violence of all kinds against women. It is also clear that many long-term health problems result from FGM. Because over 3 million girls are at risk each year, it is urgent that this practice be eliminated as quickly as possible. Although mostly practiced in the Middle East and Africa, immigrants to other countries have spread the practice worldwide. On February 6, 2003, Stella Obasanjo, the First Lady of Nigeria and spokesperson for the Campaign Against Female Genital Mutilation, made the official declaration on "Zero Tolerance to FGM" in Africa during a conference organized by the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (IAC). Then the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights adopted this day as an international awareness day. This day is a part of a combined effort by the UN to meet one of its Sustainable Development Goals. The elimination of FGM is a key target under Goal 5—Gender Equality. With greater education, many women in countries where FGM is practiced are themselves demanding that this practice end—NOW!
God of love and mercy, hear us as we pray for an end to female genital mutilation throughout the world. As education makes it clear to everyone the harm of such practices, open the hearts of all so that they will demand that this practice end NOW! Protect girls who are at risk and keep them safe.
February 8—International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking
The First International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking was celebrated in all dioceses and parishes in the world on February 8, 2015, the Feast Day of Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese freed slave, who became a Canossian nun, and dedicated her life to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and comforting the poor and suffering. The primary objective of the International Day is to create greater awareness of this phenomenon and to reflect on the overall situation of violence and injustice that affects so many people. Another goal is to attempt to provide solutions to counter this modern form of slavery by taking concrete actions. Human trafficking concerns the whole world. According to official data roughly 21 million people, often very poor and vulnerable, are victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced labor and begging, illegal organ removal, domestic servitude and forced marriages, illegal adoption and other forms of exploitation. Each year, around 2.5 million people are victims of trafficking and slavery. On the other hand, for traffickers, this is one of the most lucrative illegal activities in the world, generating a total of 32 billion dollars a year. It is the third most profitable “business” after drugs and arms trafficking. Pope Francis has stated “Human Trafficking is a crime against humanity. It’s a disgrace that people are treated as objects, deceived, raped, often sold many times for different purposes and, in the end, killed or, in any case, physically and mentally damaged, ending up thrown away and abandoned.”
When trafficking is suspected, it is crucial that we notify authorities so that they can investigate the situation and take action. In many countries, there are hotlines where concerned citizens can call anonymously to report concerns. In the US, the human trafficking hotline number is: 1-888-373-7888.
O God, when we hear of children and adults deceived and taken to unknown places for purposes of sexual exploitation, forced labor, and organ ‘harvesting’, our hearts are saddened and our spirits angry that their dignity and rights are ignored through threats, lies, and force. We cry out against the evil practice of this modern slavery, and pray with Saint Bakhita for it to end. Give us wisdom and courage to reach out
and stand with those whose bodies, hearts and spirits have been so wounded, so that together we may make real your promises to fill these sisters and brothers with a love that is tender and good. Send the exploiters away empty-handed to be converted from this wickedness, and help us all to claim the freedom that is your gift to your children. Amen. (Archdiocese of Vancouver)
February 11—World Day of the Sick
The World Day of the Sick was instituted in 1993 by Pope John Paul II, the year after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The feast day of Lourdes was chosen because of the many people who have been cured of all sorts of illnesses at Lourdes. On this day, Catholics throughout the world offer prayers for the sick and their caregivers. This is a day to reach out to the sick by visiting them, giving respite assistance to caregivers, and visiting the ill who are confined to bed or home. It is a special time for bringing hope through our presence and love.
God of healing and compassion, you shower us with your infinite care, and comfort all in pain and affliction. Look with abundant mercy on all who suffer in body, mind or spirit. Grant healing and hope to the sick, the wounded and the dying in their darkest hours, so they may witness the power of Your Healing Presence in the world. We thank you, gracious God, for all those who care for the sick. These are the women and men who inspire us every day. Send your merciful love and empowering presence to all who work to alleviate the suffering of the sick, the lonely and the broken-hearted, wherever they may be. Sustain us, your ministers of compassion and healing, as we continue your mission of love and healing. May we be the face of your son, Jesus, who said, “Come to me all who labor and are burdened and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden light.” May all of us who give care and all those who suffer with family and loved ones who are ill feel their burdens lightened through the intercession of our prayers. We ask this, on the world day of the sick, through the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes, whose feast we celebrate today, and in the name of your Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen. (adapted from the Catholic Health Association of the USA)
February 20—World Day of Social Justice
World Day of Social Justice was begun by the United Nations in 2009. Social justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations. We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants. We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability. The UN recognizes that social justice is essential to attaining sustainable global development. Social justice is only possible when solidarity, harmony and equality within and among countries constitute the fundamental values of all societies. This must be accompanied by equitable distribution of income and access to resources. Observance of World Day of Social Justice should support efforts of the international community in poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all. This day calls each of us to actively participate in creating the just world that we all desire.
Holy One, may justice rain down from heaven and grow among all people of Earth. Root us in hope, love, compassion and dignity. Help us to recognize our shared dreams and human rights as we build a sustainable and just future together. May each of us act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with you, our God.
February 23—International Stand Up to Bullying Day
International Stand Up to Bullying Day is a day when people are urged to where pink shirts to indicate solidarity in their stance against bullying. As awareness of bullying grows in schools, workplaces, and organizations, it is important to join together to put an end to bullying which still affects people of all ages. The wearing of the pink shirts initially served as a non-confrontational way to signal to victims of bullying that the wearer was a person they could turn to for help and support. Now it is worn on this day as a sign that we will no longer stand aside in silence when someone is suffering bullying. This day occurs twice a year, on the last Friday in February and the third Friday of November.
God, we pray for the courage to stand up to bullying whenever we witness it. Let us not remain silent, but step in to stop it. Bless those who have suffered bullying. Let them know of our solidarity with them, so that they know that they are valued, loved and supported. Heal the hurt they experience and keep them safe from physical harm. Lead bullies to conversion of heart, so that they will no longer seek their own affirmation by putting down others. Heal their woundedness so that they will stop wounding others.
Suggested FCJM-Participation for the Month of January, 2018
January 1—World Day of Peace
The World Day of Peace was introduced by Pope Paul VI in 1967, inspired by the encyclical Pacem in Terris. This year, Pope Francis has designated the day’s theme as “Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace.” Building on his September “Share the Journey” campaign in support of migrants and refugees, Pope Francis’ Message for the 51st World Day of Peace (Jan. 1) invites Catholics to embrace those who endure perilous journeys and hardships in order to find peace. Four “mileposts for action” are necessary in order to allow migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and trafficking victims the opportunity to find peace. These include:
1. Welcoming, which calls for “expanding legal pathways for entry” and better balancing national security and fundamental human rights concerns;
2. Protecting, or recognizing and defending “the inviolable dignity of those who flee”;
3. Promoting, which entails “supporting the integral human development of migrants and refugees”; and
4. Integrating by allowing migrants and refugees to “participate fully in the life of society that welcomes them.” Doing so enriches both those arriving and those welcoming.
Merciful God and Father of all, wake us from the slumber of indifference, open our eyes to their suffering, and free us from the insensitivity born of worldly comfort and self-centeredness.
Inspire us, as nations, communities and individuals, to see that those who come to our shores are our brothers and sisters.
May we share with them the blessings we have received from your hand, and recognize that together, as one human family, we are all migrants, journeying in hope to you, our true home, where every tear will be wiped away, where we will be at peace and safe in your embrace.
(Excerpted from Pope Francis’ Prayer for Migrants at the Port of Lesbos, 4/16/16)
January 15—Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a federal holiday in the United States honoring the achievements of Martin Luther King, Jr., the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement to end racial segregation. He was honoured for this work with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. In his later years, he worked tirelessly for economic justice and an end to war and violence of all kinds. He was assassinated in 1968 while advocating for just wages for garbage workers in Memphis Tennessee. Over the years, Dr. King’s legacy has inspired people throughout the world who are continuing the non-violent struggle for equality, justice, peace and hope. For this reason, this commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. is now celebrated worldwide.
Holy one, we thank you for the gift of Martin Luther King Jr., a man of peace and non-violence, a man of courage and fortitude, a man of faith and hope, a man of love. Through his example, continue to inspire us to acts of justice. Help us to reflect on the gospel message in light of today’s reality. Give us the courage to follow in Christ’s footsteps, as Martin did, bringing hope, justice and love to our broken world.
January 27—International Day of Commemoration of the Victims of the Holocaust
This day is called the International Day of Commemoration of the Victims of the Holocaust and is held on the date when the Soviet troops liberated the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland on January 27, 1945. At a time when some people are denying the overwhelming historical record of the holocaust, this is a day to honor the victims—those who died and the millions more whose lives were forever changed by the brutality they suffered, witnessed or perpetrated. Recalling the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations General Assembly reaffirmed that “the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one-third of the Jewish people along with countless members of other minorities, will forever be a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice". This is a day to remember and to share the stories, so that such atrocities and genocide will not continue to happen. Bigotry, racism, prejudice and hatred are powerful forces that must be guarded against and condemned. Silence in the face of such attitudes and violence is not an option. We must be willing to stand in solidarity with one another so that oppression cannot stand. The history of the holocaust is a powerful one that we must learn from. Let the stories be remembered and told so that this history will never be repeated.
God, we pray for the many victims of the holocaust living and dead. May we all remember the horrible price of bigotry, racism, prejudice and hatred. Help us to have the courage to stand in solidarity with those oppressed, persecuted and marginalized. God, give us the strength to denounce injustice and not remain silent.
January 28—World Leprosy Day
World Leprosy Day is held on the Sunday nearest to January 30th, to raise consciousness about leprosy, also known as Hansen’s Disease. This date is the death anniversary of Gandhi, and was chosen because Gandhi understood well the stigma and marginalization that people over the centuries have suffered because of this illness. He struggled tirelessly to eradicate the stigma associated with this disease, which for centuries added to the suffering of those afflicted.
Leprosy is one of the oldest diseases known to humankind. It is caused by an infectious organism that targets the nerves in the coolest parts of the body—the hands, feet and face. Disfigurement in these areas makes the disease disabling, and readily apparent to all who see it. This has led to stigma and fear, which even today persists in many cultures. Leprosy is also known as Hansen’s disease, named after Norwegian physician, Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen, who showed that the disease had a bacterial cause. It is now treatable with the use of special antibiotics. For thousands of years, people with leprosy have been stigmatized and considered to be at the extreme margins of the society. The aim of World Leprosy Day is to change this attitude and increase public awareness of the fact that leprosy can now be easily prevented and cured. There are 14 countries worldwide where 95% of all new leprosy patients are reported: Bangladesh, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines, Sri Lanka and United Republic of Tanzania. Brazil, India and Indonesia account for 81% of new leprosy patients globally. India alone accounts for 60%. Through education and treatment, the World Health Organization hopes to one day eliminate this disease worldwide.
Holy One, we pray for those who suffer from leprosy, especially those who do not have access to the antibiotics that can treat and cure this disease. We pray for those who go undiagnosed due to stigma, fear, and lack of medical expertise. May each of us reach out to anyone in our communities who are stigmatized and marginalized for any reason. May we never let illness or fear separate us from one another.