International Day of Human Fraternity on February 4
The idea for a dedicated day to encourage the world to live together in peace was born in Abu Dhabi four years ago.
It followed a meeting and declaration between Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed Al Tayeb, Grand Iman of Al Azhar, during the head of the Catholic Church's first historic visit to the UAE on February 4, 2019.
Taking note of that historic meeting and the signing of the document, the United Nations decided to observe (beginning 2021) every February 4 as the ‘International Day of Human Fraternity.’ The theme for the day this year is ‘Human Fraternity in Action,’ which means that humanity must disperse and renounce all kinds of religious bigotry and xenophobia.
Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed set out their joint statement, sometimes called the Abu Dhabi agreement, as a way forward for different religions to live peacefully together.
Denouncing terrorism, they called on world leaders “to work strenuously to spread the culture of tolerance and of living together in peace.”
“The document is one of the most comprehensive ones written in recent times. It not only analyses the realities which grip mankind today but also provides a blueprint for all in order to address and ultimately overcome the hate, divisiveness and violence of today,” says Gujarat-based Jesuit peace activist Father Cedric Prakash.
A four-day celebration of the International Day of Human Fraternity is celebrated at Expo 2020 Dubai from February 4, where more than 40 government agencies and ministries will participate.
In Abu Dhabi, work is already well advanced on the ‘Abrahamic Family House,’ under construction on Saadiyat Island, according to news reports from the Middle East.
Comprising a mosque, church and synagogue with an education centre, the multi-faith complex is designed to promote peaceful understanding and harmonious coexistence through greater understanding of the rituals of each of the three Abrahamic religions, whose faithful are often referred to in Arabic as “Ahl Al Kitaab” or “People of the Book.”
The Abrahamic Family House is scheduled to open later this year.
On the first Day of Fraternity in 2021, the United Nations noted deep concern regarding acts that advocate religious hatred and, thereby, undermine the spirit of tolerance and respect for diversity, particularly during this crisis caused by the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. This requires a global response based on unity, solidarity and renewed multilateral cooperation.
The objective is to build an environment conducive to peace and mutual understanding. Activities aimed at interreligious and intercultural dialogue to enhance peace and social stability, respect for diversity and mutual respect and to create, at the global level, and at the regional, national and local levels, which must be encouraged and even mainstreamed.
This is a tall order when hate and violence, divisiveness and denigration, xenophobia and jingoism, intolerance and exclusiveness are on the rise and even institutionalised, say peace activists.
“Fraternity is also a non-negotiable dimension of the Indian Constitution appearing in the Preamble,” says Father Cedric, “A pillar of our democracy, it refers to a feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood and a sense of belonging with the country among its people. The Preamble declares that fraternity has to assure two things—the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation.”
Pope Francis said very recently, “Fraternity means reaching out to others, respecting them, and listening to them with an open heart.” The Holy Father then expressed hope that we will take concrete steps, together with the believers of other religions and people of goodwill “to affirm that today is a time of fraternity, avoiding fuelling clashes, divisions, and closures…. Let us pray and commit ourselves every day so that we may all live in peace as brothers and sisters.”
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.