It seems any direction you look, these days, there is trauma, grief, loss, and sadness. More than ever, life seems colored by weariness and struggle. While people continue to hold on to threads of gratitude and faith, life is hard. Whether it is division or loss within families, violence in neighborhoods and cities, discord in local and national politics, or international suffering and brutality, these are days that call us to dig deep into our hearts to find strength.
In February 2019, the UN General Assembly set up The International Day of Human Fraternity to commemorate the signing of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayyeb. In this document, “the Muslims of the East and West, together with the Catholic Church and the Catholics of the East and West, declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard.” All people were called upon to “rediscover the values of peace, justice, goodness, beauty, human fraternity and coexistence in order to confirm the importance of these values as anchors of salvation for all, and to promote them everywhere.”
This document “reflected on the level of poverty, conflict and suffering of so many brothers and sisters in different parts of the world as a consequence of the arms race, social injustice, corruption, inequality, moral decline, terrorism, discrimination, extremism and many other causes.”
With profound hope for the future of all human beings, the idea of “fraternity” was advanced. This document invites all persons to unite and work together. It seeks to be a guide to evolve a culture of mutual respect: “Faith leads a believer to see in the other a brother or sister to be supported and loved.”
The UN General Assembly called for a Second International Day of Human Fraternity in February 2022. So great is the threat to the social order—and so high the desire “to build fraternity as a bulwark against hatred, violence, and injustice,” Pope Francis calls all people to attention.
“Now is the fitting time to journey together…Do not leave it to tomorrow or an uncertain future…This is a good day to extend a hand, to celebrate our unity in diversity—unity, not uniformity, unity in diversity.”
“Now is not a time for indifference: either we are brothers and sisters, or everything falls apart. This is not to be melodramatic; it is the truth! Either we are brothers and sisters, or everything falls apart.”
Truly, the only answer to the suffering and trials of our day is found in our willingness to trust God and find the grace and strength to stay “committed to the cause of peace and to respond concretely to the problems and needs of the least, the poor and the defenseless.” Pope Francis warns, “the path of fraternity is long and challenging, it is a difficult path, yet it is the anchor of salvation for humanity.”
Let us walk side-by-side, in the harmony of differences, with respect for the identity of each. With concrete actions, let us be brothers and sisters, all.