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.
International Solidarity Days-February 2021
February 6—International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
In 2003, thanks to Stella Obasanjo, the then First Lady of Nigeria, "Zero Tolerance to FGM" became the official stance of the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (IAC) and the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights. This date was established as a day dedicated to raising international awareness about this practice and the need to eradicate it. FGM is now considered a form of violence against women and girls and is universally recognized as a form of human rights abuse. In addition, the medical risks, including severe blood loss, infections, pain, later complications during childbirth, and possible long-term negative psychological effects are well recognized. FGM has been declining in recent years, but this day will continue to focus our attention on this form of violence against women until it is truly ended worldwide.
Holy One, thank you for the wonderful bodies with which you have gifted us. These “earthen vessels” have their origins in the same cosmic stardust that birthed the earth itself. All that you created is good and holy and is to be cherished, protected and honored. We pray that FGM will end so that no woman or girl is abused in this way. We pray that women and men everywhere will come to appreciate that a woman’s body is holy just as you created it.
February 8—International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking
The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) has designated February 8, the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita—a former slave and victim of human trafficking, as an annual day of prayer and awareness against human trafficking. Human trafficking is recognized as a form of modern-day slavery. Whenever a person is forced against their will, through physical coercion or threat of violence, to work or engage in sexual acts, this is enslavement. Many people in desperate economic situations are lured into being transported to other countries, away from family and friends, with the promise of paying jobs, only to be held against their wills once they arrive. They are exploited and are often unable to free themselves from bondage. Both national and international laws have tried to put an end to human trafficking, and yet the practice persists. This day calls us to become aware of the warning signs of human trafficking and to report suspected cases to authorities. Many victims have been freed because warning signs were recognized and reported.
O God bless all those who suffer as victims of human trafficking. Help them to know that they are loved and not forgotten. Inspire each of us with determination and courage to report suspected situations of human trafficking. Change the hearts of traffickers and those who profit from human trafficking so that they can feel the pain they are causing and turn to you for forgiveness. Let us build an economy free of human trafficking.
February 11—World Day of the Sick
The World Day of the Sick was instituted in 1993 by Pope John Paul II and celebrated on the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. On this day, Catholics over the world pray for those who suffer from illness or injury, and for those who minister to them. This day is particularly poignant this year, with millions of people in every corner of the world suffering and dying from the COVID-19 pandemic. In his message for World Day of the Sick, Pope Francis writes: “The current pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in our healthcare systems and exposed inefficiencies in the care of the sick. Elderly, weak, and vulnerable people are not always granted access to care, or in an equitable manner. This is the result of political decisions, resource management and greater or lesser commitment on the part of those holding positions of responsibility. Investing resources in the care and assistance of the sick is a priority linked to the fundamental principle that health is a primary common good. Yet the pandemic has also highlighted the dedication and generosity of healthcare personnel, volunteers, support staff, priests, men and women religious, all of whom have helped, treated, comforted and served so many of the sick and their families with professionalism, self-giving, responsibility and love of neighbor. A silent multitude of men and women, they chose not to look the other way but to share the suffering of patients, whom they saw as neighbors and members of our one human family.” On this day, let us all reach out to those who are ill with love and compassion. Let us take action to support those who serve the sick—healthcare workers, dietary and housekeeping staffs, family, and friends. May our prayers also comfort, console, and heal each other.
God of healing, we pray for all who are suffering from illness or injury. May they be blessed with a return to good health and with loving compassionate care from family, friends, and caregivers. We also pray for all those who care for those who suffer—nurses, doctors, health aids, dietary and housekeeping workers, pastoral care providers, lab and x-ray personnel –and all those who risk their own health during this COVID pandemic in order to serve society in essential ways. May all be protected, and may we show our appreciation and offer our assistance whenever we can.
February 20—World Day of Social Justice
In 2021, the theme for the World Day of Social Justice is
Holy One, bless all your people as we struggle to change the complex policies that create and perpetuate social inequality. As we seek to rebuild our global societies after the COVID pandemic, help us to address the root causes of economic, health and social inequalities so that all people may live in dignity, hope and peace.
February 28—International Stand Up to Bullying Day—wear a pink shirt
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Wearing a pink shirt on this day allows bullies all over the world to see that their behavior of intimidation will not be tolerated. Wearers pledge to stand with victims and to intervene on their behalf whenever bullying is witnesses. The pink shirts also communicate the awareness that bullying can have horrible consequences such as suicide, whether intended or unintended. Bullying denies the inherent dignity of every human person and is unacceptable. We must put an end to such behavior, whether committed by children in the school yard, or by autocratic rulers of nations who intimidate their own citizens and/or neighboring countries.
God, we pray for courage to stand up against all levels of bullying. When we witness it, inspire us to speak out so that persons being bullied do not have to stand alone. Help us to lead by example so that all people are treated with dignity and respect, listened to and honored, empowered to be the best person that they can be.