International Solidarity Days – March 2022
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. This year’s theme is Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow. This is a day to dream and work towards a world free from gender bias, stereotypes and discrimination that can rob us of women’s gifts and creativity. It is a day to work towards a world that is inclusive, equitable, and celebrates diversity. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals recognize that women have a significant role in creating a sustainable future for our world. In order to contribute maximally to this effort, women must have equal access to education and healthcare, equal pay for equal work, equal access to all professional opportunities and equal political influence and voice in society. Gender bias and stereotypes undergird the various forms of discrimination that women face. These must be recognized, called out and rejected if women throughout the world are going to be able to contribute as full and equal partners in creating our global future.
Oh, Holy One, we thank you for the many gifts that women contribute to creating a more just, equitable and sustainable future for our world. Inspire us all to actively break the bias that still holds many women back from reaching their fullest potential. May the many women leaders among us inspire present and future generations of women to know their own gifts and to generously share these for the common good.
March 21—Week of Solidarity Against Racism and Racial Discrimination
Unfortunately, racism still affects human beings around the globe. It is a consequence of colonization and oppression and continues to be exploited by some as a means to divide people from one another. 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 in 1965 and entered into force in 1969. Racism and discrimination have continued to lead to “ethnic cleansing” of small minority communities in many corners of the globe, brutal repression of human rights by powerful majority elites, labor exploitation, and race-based bias in the criminal justice systems of many countries. Human rights are based on the innate human dignity of every person. No human being is safe unless all of us are safe. No human rights are respected unless the rights of all human beings are respected. The continued deaths of African Americans in police custody in the USA is a blatant example of how racism can become institutionalized and normalized when society fails to confront it honestly. Unless rooted out, racism spreads like a cancer and has the power to kill an entire society. Truth-telling about the history of racism is the first step in healing.
Oh God, cleanse our hearts of the racism that lingers within each of us. Help us on our journey toward creating a culture of encounter, recognizing every person as our sister and brother. Open our hearts so that we may listen to one another’s stories with empathy, understanding and compassion. Help us as we work to heal ourselves and our cultures of racism and discrimination in all its forms.
March 22—World Water Day
Water is a precious gift that sustains all life on this “blue planet” Earth. Our own evolutionary connection to the oceans is reflected in the “salt water” of human sweat and tears. Fresh water originating from nurturing rains and melting snows flows through our own veins, just as it flows through Earth’s arteries of rivers and streams, filling lakes and vast networks of underground aquifers. This year’s theme for World Water Day is Ground Water—Making the Invisible Visible. Most of the fresh water on our planet is ground water. Because it is out of sight, we tend to forget about the crucial role it plays in storing water, safe from evaporation. As climate change causes more and more loss of surface water, human water consumption has begun to threaten groundwater supplies. In December 2022 the UN will hold a summit on groundwater to define actions towards more responsible and sustainable use and protection of this vital natural resource. We call on each of us to do whatever we can to preserve and protect this natural treasure. Each drop saved can make a difference.
God, we praise you for sister Water. We thank you for the many ways she sustains our lives and all life on our planet. Help us to use this gift wisely, considering every drop of water as a blessing. Inspire us to take action to safeguard this precious resource from contamination. Bless us and bless our world as we do what we can to conserve and protect sister Water.
March 25—International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
The International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade is an occasion to discuss the transatlantic slave trade's causes, consequences, and lessons. During the 400- year history of the transatlantic slave trade, over 17 million men, women and children were captured and sold into slavery. Many millions also died enroute to the Americas during the infamous “middle passage” due to the deplorable conditions onboard slaving ships. Survival meant a lifetime of enslavement, often accompanied by brutality. Slavers sought to deprive victims of their names, cultures, languages, religious practices, human dignity, and any hope of freedom. Families were often wrenched apart and sold without warning or any information about where loved ones were being taken. In spite of this, generation after generation of enslaved people kept hope alive. The longing for freedom for themselves and their descendants was expressed in prayer, song, storytelling, and rituals. Today, we honor their strength and determination. We recognize the momentous contributions made to world-wide civilizations by those who suffered so much. This day calls on us all to remember the brutality that resulted from the racism and discrimination that denied the full human dignity of an entire race of people. We must actively reject and resist such attitudes that can lead to horrible suffering for future generations as well.
God, we ask forgiveness for the suffering caused to so many people by the transatlantic slave trade. Heal us 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 2022
February 6—International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights, the health and the integrity of girls and women. 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. Although primarily concentrated in 30 countries in Africa and the Middle East, female genital mutilation is a universal problem and continues to persist amongst immigrant populations living in Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. FGM has been declining in recent years, but the covid pandemic has significantly slowed the efforts to educate people about the harmful effects of this practice as well as debunking the myths about why this procedure is practiced. To eliminate this form of violence against women and girls it will take a coordinated and systematic effort that must engage whole communities and focus on human rights, gender equality, sexual education, and attention to the needs of women and girls who suffer from its consequences.
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. Trafficking in persons is a crime against humanity and ultimately a sin. Human trafficking denies the value of human life, exposes victims to serious health risks, endangers the mental well-being of victims and impedes the ability of victims to reach their full God-given potential. In 2018, about 50,000 victims were detected and reported to authorities in 148 countries. Of these, 50% were victims of sexual exploitation, while 38 % were victims of forced labor. Women and girls make up about 65% of those trafficked, and globally, about 1/3 of those trafficked are children. The number of boys is estimated to have increased five times over the past 15 years. For those lucky enough to be rescued, return to their own countries and families may or may not be possible. For all, the process of rehabilitation, education, and psychological support is a long, slow process. Lives of victims have been forever changed, and rebuilding trust and self-esteem requires an ongoing effort. Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery and must be addressed by global efforts to eradicate it. This day calls us to become aware of the warning signs of human trafficking and to report suspected cases to authorities.
O God, bless and comfort all those who suffer as victims of human trafficking. Keep their hope alive as they await rescue or escape. Keep them safe on their journey to recovery. 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. Help them to see all human beings as their brothers and sisters, and to free those they have ensnared. Let us build a global economy free of human trafficking.
February 11—World Day of the Sick
The World Day of the Sick was instituted in 1992 by Pope John Paul II and is celebrated on the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. The theme of this 30th World Day of the Sick is: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”. Mercy is an “ever-present and active force…combining strength and tenderness.” (30th World Day of the Sick Papal Address) On this day, Catholics over the world pray for those suffering with illness or injury, as well as those who minister to them. We are also called to be attentive to their unique needs through acts of strong and tender mercy. In 2021, Pope Francis reminded us that “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.” In 2022, the Pope calls us to be especially mindful of the many people around the world who live in extreme poverty and still have little or no access to healthcare. We are reminded that we have a long way to go to ensure that those on the margins of society receive the care and support they need. This year, Francis concludes his message by recalling the indispensable service of the health care ministry. We can all share in the healing ministry of Jesus, by making ourselves close to those who suffer because "the ministry of consolation is a task for every baptized person, mindful of the word of Jesus: “I was sick and you visited me” ( Mt 25:36)".
For Pope Francis’ World Day of the Sick address see: 30th World Day of the Sick 2022 | Francis (vatican.va)
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, merciful care from family, friends, and caregivers. Bless, also, those who reach out in love and compassion to care for the sick. May they be supported and strengthened in their ministry as they tirelessly serve those in need of care. Open our hearts as we visit, listen to and support those in need of healing.
February 20—World Day of Social Justice
This day is dedicated to sustainable development, eradication of poverty, equitable economic growth, gender equality, and universal equality for all human beings. It has long been recognized that there can be no peace without justice. And Martin Luther King Jr reminded us that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” In 2022, the theme for the World Day of Social Justice is “A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy”. The lack of access to education, electricity, and technology severely limits employment opportunities for many of the world’s poor, which makes them more vulnerable to labor exploitation. Many struggle to make a living wage. With no options open to them, many families struggle for adequate nutrition, housing, and basic healthcare. Recently, Pope Francis met with leaders of popular movements around the world and encouraged them to continue their struggle for justice. He called for a universal basic income and the shortening of the working day as a partial solution to the economic crisis being experienced by millions of people. This would allow people to provide for their basic needs and allow more people to find work, since people would no longer have to work 2-3 jobs just to get by. Pope Francis said, “I believe these measures are necessary, but of course not sufficient…but I wanted to mention them because they are possible measures and would point us in the right direction.”
God, we ask you to open our hearts and minds as we struggle to create a more just and peaceful world. Inspire us to creatively address the unjust social structures that perpetuate inequality. As we seek to rebuild our global societies after the COVID pandemic, may we move toward a flourishing future built on social justice 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. On this day we are all called to take a visible, public stance against bullying by wearing a pink shirt. By doing this, we send a clear message to bullies all over the world that their behavior of intimidation will not be tolerated. Wearers pledge to stand with victims and to intervene on their behalf whenever bullying is witnessed. Wearers also communicate that they are willing to offer support to victims of bullying, and thereby hopefully prevent suicides that can result from the isolation victims often feel. 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. Whether it occurs in the school yards or in the halls of power, help us to denounce it and actively intervene to stop it so that persons being bullied do not have to stand alone. Help us to treat everyone with dignity and respect. Help us to listen to, honor, and empower one another so that we can all grow to reach our full potential. Inspire us to value our diversity as we enrich one another with our unique giftedness.