Skip to main content

Tall order? 'Fraternity' action amidst climate of hate, violence, divisiveness, xenophobia

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* 

On all counts February 4, 2019 was a memorable day for the world! On that day, Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad al-Tayyib, met in Abu Dhabi, and together signed the historic and pathbreaking document entitled ‘Human fraternity for world peace and living together’.
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! The two world leaders set the tone and the raison d'être of the document right in the introduction. They state:
“From our fraternal and open discussions, and from the meeting that expressed profound hope in a bright future for all human beings, the idea of this Document on Human Fraternity was conceived. It is a text that has been given honest and serious thought so as to be a joint declaration of good and heartfelt aspirations. 
"It is a document that invites all persons who have faith in God and faith in human fraternity to unite and work together so that it may serve as a guide for future generations to advance a culture of mutual respect in the awareness of the great divine grace that makes all human beings brothers and sisters.”
The document above all is a ‘Magna Carta’, a way of proceeding for all of humanity, provided there is the necessary political will to ensure that.
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 primary aim of the day is to tell the world that everyone is free to choose a religious or irreligious belief in his/her life and no one else has the right to discriminate, hate, or molest a person due to his certain religious or irreligious association.
The complementing aim is to spread awareness across the world that all religious communities are obliged to respect each other if they want the world to prosper peacefully and if they don’t want another great war.
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. Thus, the global community has agreed, in theory, upon developing a new global culture where no one is hated or discriminated against based on his/her caste, creed, skin colour, religion, or something like that.
After the Holocaust, it is the greatest action against xenophobia, religious bigotry, and hate for “others”. First-ever in history, the global community united on the platform of the UN has decided that every religious community would be treated equally. Sadly, the ground reality is so very different. The responsibility to do much more therefore lies with the decision-makers and all people everywhere!
‘Fraternity’ is not a new concept. Though male-sounding, it embraces every single human in totality. It means brotherhood and sisterhood or a belief in co-existence. Thus, all the member states of the UN are directed by the United Nations to observe the ‘International Day of Human Fraternity’ in the best and appropriate manner to promote interreligious harmony, friendship, cooperation, and acceptance.
‘Fraternity’ is also a non-negotiable dimension of the Indian Constitution appearing in the Preamble. 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.
Already at the inaugural day in 2021 the United Nations noted that there is 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, which requires a global response based on unity, solidarity and renewed multilateral cooperation.
The backgrounder called upon all to recognize the valuable contribution of people of all religions, or beliefs, to humanity and the contribution that dialogue among all religious groups can make towards an improved awareness and understanding of the common values shared by all humankind. 
 It also underlined the importance of raising awareness about different cultures and religions, or beliefs, and the promotion of tolerance, which involves societal acceptance and respect for religious and cultural diversity, including with regard to religious expression. 
Education, in particular at school, should contribute in a meaningful way to promoting tolerance and the elimination of discrimination based on religion or belief. It highlights that tolerance, pluralistic tradition, mutual respect and the diversity of religions and beliefs, promote human fraternity.
Activities aimed at interreligious and intercultural dialogue in order to enhance peace and social stability, respect for diversity and mutual respect and to create, at the global level, and also at the regional, national and local levels, an environment conducive to peace and mutual understanding- 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! Ruling political dispensations and their cronies, as we see in India, legitimise, foment and foster such heinous acts. In an open letter (February 3, 2022) to the Chief Minister of Gujarat, in the context of the escalation of hate and violence in Gujarat, a group of concerned citizens wrote:
“We, a group of citizens from different parts of Gujarat, would draw your attention to the inflammatory hate messaging on the social media and public calls for violence against the Muslim community, following the unfortunate, condemnable murder of Kishan Bharwad in Dhandhuka by certain criminal elements…. 
"Such hate messages and public calls for violence against a community are criminal and dangerous and have the potential of instigating further violence, and it is the duty of the state to track and apprehend such criminal elements to ensure that law and order prevails.”
Fraternity is a non-negotiable dimension of the Indian Constitution appearing in the Preamble. A pillar of our democracy
Until and unless this hate and violence is nipped in the bud by the political class and committedly eschewed by all, nothing may change. But there is hope! In a recent interview to Vatican News, Jesuit Cardinal Michael Czerny, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development in the Vatican, said:
“I very much hope that the occasion of this Day of Human Fraternity, on 4 February, will be a day for opening our eyes and for giving thanks to God for making us brothers and sisters, and for asking Him to help us to live as the brothers and sisters we are since He is our common Father….
“One of the things we will learn is that human fraternity is not the exclusive prerogative of some group, some minority, some élite, some race, some culture: it’s a common vocation, and God knows, we need to recognise that and we need to live that. 
"It’s what Jesus came to teach us, gave his life for us. So, the Day for Human Fraternity is a day to give thanks and to ask God to bless all our brothers and sisters with hope and with courage for living our human vocation together”.
A couple of days ago, Pope Francis said that “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.”
The ‘International Day of Human Fraternity’ is therefore a clarion call to all – to be resolute in defending and promoting justice and the rights of all so that in sustainable peace, we can truly live as sisters and brothers in dignity, equity and love in this our common home! A major challenge: do we have the courage to face it through our actions?
---
*Human rights, reconciliation and peace activist/writer

Comments

TRENDING

Tracing roots of Hindutva Zionism: cannon fodder for 'warped' nationalist pretensions

By Shamsul Islam*  Those who believe in a world free of hegemonic ethno-nationalism, racism, religious bigotry and hatred have rightly taken note of Zionism and its ally Christian Zionism, major perpetrators of ethnic cleansing of ‘Others’. However, the civilized world with its core belief in multi-culturalism and peaceful co-existence is oblivious to a no less dangerous threat to the present human civilization: the Hindutva Zionism. As the term reads it is part of the Hindutva world-view which stands for an exclusive Hindu India minus Muslims and Christians. The other religions like Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism will have no independent status but treated as part of Hinduism. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS; National Volunteer Organization) is the most prominent flag-bearer of the Hindutva politics whose cadres presently rule India, the largest democracy in the world. RSS was founded by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (1889-1940) in 1925 who was disillusioned with the Indian freedom st

'Blatant violation' of law by Central government in making NREGA payments

By Our Representative  In September third week, NREGA workers across the country were mobilised for two day so raise their issues and submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister. Organised the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha (NSM), a collective of groups that work with NREGA labourers across the country, workers from 13 states -- Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal -- carried out Kaam Do Abhiyaan, staging demonstrations and rallies against what they called blatant violation of law by the Central government in making NREGA payments. While NREGA has had very positive impacts, it has lately become fruitless, exploiting labour, even though workers who have put in honest hard work have to wait for their wages endlessly, it was suggested.  In such a situation, there is a need to firm up NREGA implementation and end systematic corruption to ensure that workers get their basic NREGA entit

Shocking? No Covid vaccine trials conducted on pregnant, lactating women: RTI reply

By Rosamma Thomas*  A Right to Information applicant who sought details of safety trials conducted in India on pregnant and lactating women for three Covid vaccines in use in India – Covishield, Covaxin and ZyCov-D -- was shocked to learn from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) that Serum Institute, manufacturer of Covishield, and Cadila Healthcare, manufacturer of the ZyCov-D vaccine, had not sought permission for such trials.  Bharat Biotech, manufacturer of Covaxin, had sought permission for trial on pregnant women and later withdrawn its application. This response , provided after the applicant was initially unsatisfied with the response and went in appeal, is from the joint drugs controller, CDSCO. It was dated September 13, 2022. One researcher closely following the vaccine rollout, however, is of the opinion that the lack of a trial on pregnant and lactating women is a blessing; potential trial participants and their unborn babies thus escaped harm. Aruna Ro

Fascism on prowl? Religious meet 'deeply pained' at silence of Church, bishops, priests

Counterview Desk  The ‘Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace’which held its 17th National Convention at the Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad, Telangana from 22 to 24 September 2022 on the theme “Deepening our Identity as Religious: Responding to the Signs of the Times”, has expressed concern “at the deteriorating situation of our nation on every front”, especially stating, “Fascism seems to have come to stay” in India. At the same time, the convention, which took place with the participation of 60 persons from 16 states representing 20 religious congregations, in its unanimously-adopted statement added, “We have reached abysmal depths on every parameter: be it social, economic and political”, underlining, “The poor in India become poorer every day; the rich and powerful continue to profiteer at their expense and amass scandalous amounts of wealth.” Text: We, members (63 women and men Religious, from 16 states representing 20 Congregations) of the Forum of Religious for Justice

Rajasthan cops 'halt' Gujarat Dalit women's rally: homage to untouchability victim boy

By Our Representative  In a surprise move, the Rajasthan police stopped a Dalit women's rally from Gujarat on the borders after it crossed Gujarat alleging that it would "disturb peace" in village Surana, Jalore district, where the gruesome incident of death of a Dalit boy took place on August 13 after he was brutally beaten up by his teacher on touching the drinking water pot. Sources said, while the Gujarat government had "no objection" in allowing the rally, which originated from the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), an empowerment-cut-technical institute for teens founded by human rights leader Martin Macwan, on September 24 morning, the Rajasthan police stopped it for two and a half hours before allowing it to proceed to Surana. The decision to take out a women's rally was taken at a DSK meeting on September 5 following a condolence meeting of the NGO Navsarjan Trust, also founded by Macwan, activists committed to work against caste-based discrimination, orga

Introducing non-native cheetahs is 'not equivalent' to restoring pride in the nation

By Bappaditya Mukhopadhyay*  The Cheetahs from the African continent has finally been introduced to India by the Indian Prime Minister on his 72nd birthday. The process had started with the previous Government in 2009. However, the Supreme Court clearance was pending owing to the objection by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) plea to reintroduce cheetahs. Finally the clearance was obtained in January 2020 and thereafter Kuno National Park (KNP) was chosen for the reintroduction of first set of Southeast African Cheetahs. In the near future, depending upon the success story of the current reintroduction, more cheetahs from South Africa may also be introduced. This exercise has generated a lot of interest among various stakeholders with opinions on both sides galore. It is important to pose some questions that surround the whole exercise. Let us evaluate some of these arguments. The first set of arguments are quite detached from the issues of conservation as they most

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

'Military diplomacy': US praises Bangladesh Army for leadership role in UN operations

By Kamal Uddin Mazumder* As the Indo-Pacific region represents the world’s economic and strategic center of gravity, the Indian Ocean today is becoming the centerpiece of all geo-strategic play. Cooperation in the region is crucial to implementing the international community’s global agenda, including achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Major powers like the US have enhanced and deepened their strategic engagement and leadership roles with countries in the region. The Indo-Pacific Army Management Seminar, or IPAMS, is a U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) initiated conference that is aimed at facilitating and enhancing interactions among the armies of the Indo-Pacific region. This year's 46th Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS)-2022, co-hosted by the Bangladesh Army and US Army Pacific (USARPAC), concluded in Dhaka. The objective of IPAMS is to promote peace and stability in the region through mutual understanding, dialogue, and friendship. It is the largest confer

Grave error? Scholar blames ex-Gujarat babu for anti-Christian riots 'citing fake report'

By Rajiv Shah  A few days back, I received a message from one of the finest former Gujarat government bureaucrats, PG Ramrakhiani, a 1964 batch IAS official, who retired in November 2000. I would often interact with him in 1997-99, even later, after I was sent to Gandhinagar as a Times of India man to cover Sachivalaya. Those were turbulent times. Shankarsinh Vaghela was the Gujarat chief minister, under attack from two sides – from the BJP, which he had left to form a separate breakaway party, Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), one one hand, and the Congress, which was supporting him from outside, on the other. Ramrakhiani, in his message, referred to the book authored by Ghanshyam Shah and Jan Breman, both top-notch scholars who have known Gujarat in and out. Called “Gujarat, Cradle and Harbinger of Identity Politics: India’s Injurious Frame of Communalism”, I reviewed the book in January 2022.  It claims that Muslims in Gujarat have been turned into “new untouchables”, thanks to the Hin

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.