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Celebrating the first International Day of Human Fraternity

Jermaine Bagnall

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Photo by Savvas Stavrinos from Pexels
Today we celebrate the first ever International Day of Human Fraternity, an initiative of the United Nations inspired by our very own Pope Francis.
This day is one of many United Nations International Days, which serve as an opportunity to call attention to issues and ideas that should be placed at the forefront of the minds, hearts, and actions of people all around the world. They are a reminder that humanity has the capacity to achieve great heights in the realm of justice and equity – and that to achieve these lofty goals, there need to be healthy measures of education, political will, and action directed towards those goals. Although these steps are set as hard-to-reach ideals, International Days are meant to represent things that humanity can achieve.
The International Day of Human Fraternity and Pope Francis
The International Day of Human Fraternity (IDHF) is all about people of good will coming together with the intention of making the world a better and safer place. The idea and action that spurred this day into existence was the joint signing of A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad al-Tayyib, in Abu Dhabi on February 4, 2019.
This document not only served as the catalyst for the IDHF; it also provided foundational ideas for the creation of the UN’s Culture of Peace, which, according to their website, is based upon the following:
  • Respect for life, ending of violence and promotion and practice of non-violence through education, dialogue and cooperation;
  • Full respect for the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of States and non-intervention in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law;
  • Full respect for and promotion of all human rights and fundamental freedoms;
  • Commitment to peaceful settlement of conflicts;
  • Efforts to meet the developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations;
  • Respect for and promotion of the right to development; Respect for and promotion of equal rights and opportunities for women and men;
  • Respect for and promotion of the right of everyone to freedom of expression, opinion and information;
  • Adherence to the principles of freedom, justice, democracy, tolerance, solidarity, cooperation, pluralism, cultural diversity, dialogue and understanding at all levels of society and among nations; and fostered by an enabling national and international environment conducive to peace.
What does this mean for Catholics?
As Catholics, we are called to sainthood, and this International Day presents another avenue for it to be achieved by emulating the compassion, understanding, and strength of Jesus in our day-to-day interactions with people. Additionally, the International Day of Human Fraternity is a reminder that insight which leads to action can be gleaned from the wisdom held within encyclicals, apostolic exhortations, and pastoral letters.
In this instance, we need look no further than the encyclical released on October 3, 2020: Fratelli Tutti, On Fraternity and Social Friendship. To help you understanding this important document, Salt + Light Media has created a three-part exploration into this latest work by Pope Francis. Additionally, there is tremendous wisdom in the encyclical by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, and the pastoral letter from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call To Love, among countless other works.
But most of all, we can turn to the words of Jesus:
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)
To ensure that Catholics are able to live up to the ideals set forth with the International Day of Human Fraternity, this scripture needs to be at the very core of every interaction. To lead with love makes all things possible.

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