By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
“The true worth of the different countries of our world is measured by their ability to think not simply as a country but also as part of the larger human family” (Fratelli Tutti, 141).
On Thursday, February 4, the world will observe the first International Day of Human Fraternity. In December 2020, the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution based on an initiative that was introduced by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. The UN said that the proclamation of this Day is “a response to growing religious hatred amid the COVID-19 pandemic”.
As the media reported: “Lana Nusseibeh, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the UAE to the UN, told the UN General Assembly…’In recent years, the world has been witnessing a dramatic increase in violence, hate speech, xenophobia, religious bigotry, and other forms of discrimination. In the face of such transnational threats, we need to support initiatives that encourage solidarity and unity among people in the spirit of human fraternity’.”
Inter alia, Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam, Secretary-General of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, affirmed that the adoption of the UN resolution is “further international recognition of the historic Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, signed in Abu Dhabi on 4 February, 2019 by Al Azhar’s Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyib and His Holiness Pope Francis of the Catholic Church”.
Justice Abdelsalam rightly added that human fraternity has become the responsibility of the world. “He underscored that the move is a victory against violence, hate, religious and ethnic extremism and all forms of discrimination, in favour of the principles of human fraternity, tolerance, compassion and peace.”
The entire document referred to above, and which Pope Francis co-signed in 2019, is included in his encyclical: Fratelli Tutti (‘On fraternity and social friendship’).
As we prepare to celebrate the day on Thursday, February 4, let us spend some time once more reading the Holy Father’s encyclical, or even one chapter.
Chapter 2 is one that I read and re-read. It is at the heart of my social justice work. As the editorial in the America Magazine: Jesuit Review (October 7, 2020) states: “Pope Francis devotes the second chapter…to a meditation on the parable of the good Samaritan. In doing so, he offers a compelling theological and moral lens for understanding our world, examining our conscience, and finding a pathway to universal fraternity and social friendship…
“The pope asks, ‘Which of these characters do you identify with? This question, blunt as it is, is direct and incisive. Which of these characters do you resemble?’ (in the Good Samaritan).
“The pope writes, ‘The true worth of the different countries of our world is measured by their ability to think not simply as a country but also as part of the larger human family’.”
It seems impossible that one could list every social injustice that plagues our society, but Francis comes close. The list of ills that plague our broken and divided world includes war, climate change, the death penalty, poverty, abortion, inequality, unfettered capitalism, racism, nationalism, and unemployment.
“And Francis reminds us that it is always people who suffer from these injustices: the poor, the disabled, women, racial minorities, migrants, refugees, the elderly, prisoners, the unborn, the lonely…’Fratelli Tutti,’ … beyond serving as an excellent primer on Catholic social teaching, reminds all people of good will that work against the structures of social sin goes hand in hand with personal, individual growth in virtue.
“This pope has constantly encouraged believers to follow Christ to the peripheries of society, and he reminds us in this encyclical that ‘some peripheries are close to us, in city centres or within our families…. It has to do with our daily efforts to expand our circle of friends, to reach those who, even though they are close to me, I do not naturally consider a part of my circle of interests’.”
Massimo Faggioli, Berkley Centre for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, rightly says that Pope Francis “still echoes that fundamental assumption of the Second Vatican Council: The Church and the nation-state can and must cooperate for the common good”.
Here in T&T, there continues to be signs of such cooperation. Archbishop Jason Gordon’s constant dialogue with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and others in authority in T&T, is to be commended.
We have recently seen the adverse effects of extremism and political polarisation. May we all commit to build fraternity and social friendship in T&T and globally.