July 11—World Population Day

July 11th, World Population Day, seeks to raise awareness of issues around world population.  The world’s population has grown from 3 billion in 1960, to 7.1 billion in 2014.  The earth is presently able to provide enough food and water for our present global population, but equitable distribution and access continue to be a challenge.  Climate change due to human activity and armed conflicts continue to make farming and food distribution difficult.  Growing human populations also contribute to the loss of biodiversity and environmental degradation and have led to growing demands for energy.  Even clean renewable energy sources have a limited ability to meet these needs.  The Catholic Church has yet to step forward and address this global concern by addressing respect for human life and dignity while also facing how to protect Earth’s limited resources.

God, we thank you for the great diversity of the human family and for Earth, which is our common home.  We recognize that all the gifts of Earth are finite, and that human population growth cannot be limitless.  Help us to act responsibly as we re-evaluate our place in the great family of creation.  Give our Church the courage to evaluate anew the issues around population growth and to speak with moral authority based on realistic assessments of the current global situation and on the sacredness of human life.  Help us all to approach these issues with openness.


July 18—Birthday of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in Mvezo, son of an advisor to the chief of the Thembu royal family. When his father died, Nelson was only 12 years old and was then raised by the chief.  Educated as a lawyer, Mandela joined the struggle against apartheid in 1943.  In 1964 he was sentenced to life at hard labor and spent the last 18 years of his imprisonment at the notorious Robben Island Prison for attempted violent overthrow of the government.  Even in prison, he continued his struggle for justice and freedom for black South Africans, thus also becoming a powerful symbol of hope and determination.  He helped to negotiate an end to apartheid and was finally released from prison in 1990.  After an open and free political campaign, he was elected and inaugurated in 1994 as the first black president of South Africa.  Although the transition from apartheid to an open and inclusive democracy was not without violence, Mandela’s commitment to nonviolence and a peaceful transition prevented all-out civil war.  His establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995 helped heal the wounds of apartheid and set the country on a new path into the future.  South Africa became a shining example of how hope, persistence, non-violence, truth and reconciliation can transform a society.

Holy One, we thank you for raising up Nelson Mandela to show us the power of non-violence, truth and reconciliation.  Open our hearts and transform our lives so that we always treat each other with respect and love, recognizing one another as brother and sisters.  Help us to recognize the diversity of the human family as a gift to be treasured and shared. Rid us of the sin of racism that tears us apart from one another.  Like Nelson Mandela, inspire us to hold on to what we know is right, to work for what we know is possible, and to create the world we wish to live in.


July 30—International Day of Friendship

The International Day of Friendship was proclaimed in 2011 by the UN General Assembly.  It is a day dedicated to fostering peace through friendship.  World leaders over the centuries recognized that violence and war require “dehumanizing the enemy”.  Through the International Day of Friendship, we hope to promote the establishment of global friendships across countries, cultures, religions, tribes, and geographic regions.  Interpersonal relationship-building requires that we listen to one another, share our own stories, and gradually grow in understanding and empathy for one another.  These personal encounters have the power to change our own hearts and to change the world.

God, we thank you for creating the human family with all its wonderful diversity.  Forgive us for the many times when we have let our differences divide us, sometimes even leading to violence and war.  Help each of us to reach out to those often perceived as “different from ourselves”.  Bring us to these encounters with open hearts, a willingness to listen, and a commitment to understanding and caring.  Help us to realize that we are far more alike than we are different.  Indeed, we are all one!

July 30—World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

On July 30th    every year, the United Nations promotes World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery and involves every country on earth.   Victims are coerced into sex trafficking or labor trafficking, usually under fraudulent pretexts.  Although some victims are literally kidnapped from their homes, many are promised a chance to earn money to support their impoverished families, only to be sold into slavery by traffickers.  Without income, identity documents and sometimes without knowledge of where they are, those who are thus enslaved become hopeless and fearful.  Violence is also used to discourage any attempt at escape.  In many countries, hotlines are available to call whenever we encounter a situation of suspected human trafficking.  These hotlines allow anyone to report suspected trafficking anonymously so that law enforcement can investigate and arrest perpetrators.  Also, laws are now being passed to protect the victims of trafficking, recognizing that whatever “illegal” activity they may be doing is coerced, and that they are thereby not responsible for actions performed under such duress.  These laws protecting victims have encouraged some of them to come forward and report their situations to law enforcement officials.  Many more efforts continue to be needed to put an end to this horrible crime.  Those who profit from human trafficking must be held accountable if it is ever to end.

Holy One, we pray for an end to human trafficking.  Give hope, courage and help to those caught in the snare of traffickers.  Help them to seek and find a safe way out, so that they can live in freedom and security.  Change the hearts of those who enslave others against their wills.  Help them to see the dignity and humanity of every person and to reject coercion, violence and exploitation of the most vulnerable among us.  Open our eyes to see, report and reach out to those being trafficked.  Fill us with courage and compassion for those suffering from modern-day slavery.