International Day of Human Fraternity
in conjunction with International Day of Human Fraternity
4th February 2021
His Holiness Pope Francis, in his latest encyclical Fratelli Tutti (On Fraternity and Social Friendship, issued on 3 October 2020, had put forth a concrete invitation to the whole human family calling for fraternity and social friendship that concerns every man and woman, believer or non-believer. The Holy Father proposes a vision where no one should face life in isolation but to work towards a single human family in which we are brothers and sisters.
In December of the same year (21 December), the United Nations General Assembly had declared 4 February as the International Day of Human Fraternity. This initiative promoted by the United Nations comes two years after the release in Abu Dhabi of the Document on Human Fraternity signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyib. Similar to the initiative of Pope Francis, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that was aimed to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue in achieving peace and stability as well as strengthen constructive dialogue across divergent divides.
Together with the rest of the world, we Malaysians have been battling hard the COVID-19 pandemic since March last year that has resulted in disruptions and hardships to every person, irrespective of religion, ethnicity, status, or favour. On a day such as this, let us call to mind the spirit of fraternity that has prevailed in these months through the many people who worked tirelessly to care and look out for one another. The catchphrase kita-jaga-kita that was coined truly encompasses what this day stands for.
It must be the vocation of every Catholic to model our actions according to the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), who put aside all differences that may have existed and only saw a fellow human being in need. Our Catholic faith, which is founded on the two-fold commandment of love, finds expression in “the primacy given to relationship, to the encounter with the sacred mystery of the other, to universal communion with the entire human family” (Fratelli Tutti, 277) – this is our vocation. In fact, “our love for others, for who they are, moves us to seek the best for their lives. Only by cultivating this way of relating to one another will we make possible a social friendship that excludes no one and a fraternity that is open to all” (Fratelli Tutti, 94).
In each of us there is a universal love that has been imbued by God and by nature we are created for relationships. It within the context of the family that values of “love and fraternity, togetherness and sharing, concern and care for others are lived out and handed on” (Fratelli Tutti, 114). It is my hope and prayer that as we celebrate fraternity and solidarity today, our homes become the fertile soil to sow the seeds compassion and love, peace and harmony, respect and acceptance – a place where future generations can look back and draw strength for a better world.
As we work together to defeat a virus that has exposed our common human frailties, may we also come out of this pandemic having immunised ourselves against all forms of radicalism that can only destroy the unity, harmony, and respect for one another – foundations on which Malaysia was built.
As Pope Francis celebrates the International Day of Human Fraternity today, in a virtual event hosted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi, with the participation of the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, Secretary General António Guterres of the United Nations, and other personalities, let us unite ourselves with him by praying for one another – bearing in mind that despite all the challenges and obstacles, the human family still has the ability to work more closely and concretely in building our common home.
It is my ardent hope that we as Malaysians can come together in solidarity with all our diversity of culture, faith, languages, to chart a peaceful and peace-filled future, always caring for the most vulnerable in our midst. I hope with today’s International Day of Human Fraternity, we the leaders of the different Religious Faiths of Malaysia will continue to engage in dialogue (roundtable discussions) and cooperation for the greater good of our tanahair (Homeland).
May God Bless Malaysia always.
+ Most Reverend Julian Leow Beng Kim, D.D
Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur