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May 14 #PrayForHumanity: An occasion to 'strenuously' spread culture of tolerance

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*
The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity (HCHF) called on religious leaders and faithful, from every faith from around the world to observe Thursday, May 14 as a day of prayer, fasting and charitable works the good of all humanity and for an end to the pandemic COVID-19.
The pandemic has already resulted in death of over 250,000 people, the infection of almost four million, and the confinement to their homes and lockdown of two thirds of humanity .Even those who have not got the virus – like migrant labourers , daily wage earners , the unemployed and other poor – as we see in India, have been very severely affected. Millions of them are still seen walking long distances to return to their native places.
The sudden lockdown on the night of 24/25 March and the total suspension of public transport has destroyed their livelihood; deaths due to fatigue and starvation are being reported from all over. Social media has been highlighting the plight of the least of our sisters and brothers.
On Sunday May 3, speaking before the Regina Coeli, Pope Francis said:
"Since prayer is a universal value, I have accepted the proposal of the Higher Committee for Human Fraternity for believers of all religions to unite spiritually this 14 May for a day of prayer, fasting, and works of charity, to implore God to help humanity overcome the coronavirus pandemic. Remember: 14 May, all believers together, believers of different traditions, to pray, fast, and perform works of charity”. Pope Francis went on to add, “I again express my closeness to all those who are ill from Covid-19, and to those who care for all those who, in any way, are suffering from the pandemic.”
Given the fact that Pope Francis is a very well accepted and admired religious leader in the world leader the global call for this ‘day of prayer’ has approval from several quarters.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced he will take part in an international day of prayer and fasting on May 14 to ask God to help humanity overcome the coronavirus pandemic. Guterres tweeted:
“In difficult times, we must stand together for peace, humanity and solidarity. I join His Holiness Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb in their support for the Prayer for Humanity this 14 May – a moment for reflection, hope, and faith."
HCHF is an independent body of religious leaders, educational scholars and cultural figures from across the world, dedicated to achieving the noble goals of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together signed by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, during the Pope’s Apostolic Journey to the United Arab Emirates in February 2019, under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
HCHF was established in September 2019 as a concrete response to the document. The path-breaking document among other things, called upon world leaders "to work strenuously to spread the culture of tolerance and of living together in peace; to intervene at the earliest opportunity to stop the shedding of innocent blood and bring an end to wars, conflicts, environmental decay and the moral and cultural decline that the world is presently experiencing." . 
Further it also asked leaders and would-be influencers "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."
The Day of Prayer on May 14 will go down as the largest gathering of humanity for one goal, with millions participating from all over and in every possible way. Being in the holy month of Ramzan, with millions of Muslims already praying and fasting, it will certainly add to the fervour of the day.  
The event is accompanied by unprecedented media coverage, through the Committee’s social media accounts with hashtag #PrayForHumanity. to allow people to interact and share their videos, photos and posts. There are several online initiatives in India too to observe the ‘day of prayer’ as appropriately as possible.
We need to join in too with our sisters and brothers throughout the world, praying for humanity:
“We come to you today
dear heavenly and loving Father
as your children, as one family:
with deep faith and a total surrender to your will
We come to you today
at a time when our world is gripped with the pandemic COVID-19
thousands have died everywhere and many more are affected;
fear and uncertainty rule the lives of many; and we still lack a scientific cure
We come to you today
trusting in your loving providence
fully assured that you care for all of us
and that you will protect us from every danger”

Amen!
---
*Human rights and peace activist/writer

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