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.
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.