July 11—World Population Day

July 11th, World Population Day seeks to raise awareness of issues around world population. The current world population is estimated to be 7.8 billion. The average global life expectancy is now about 72 years. Global population is increasing about 83 million people per year. This continuing strain of earth’s resources threatens all of us unless we seriously strive to live more simply and thus decrease our consumption of resources. Increasing human population densities also expose all of us to increasing risks of pandemics, water shortages, and worsening food production and distribution problems. International cooperation is urgently needed to face these challenges. Education is also critical.

God, we praise you for the gift of life on our planet. We recognize that human beings share this planet with a marvelous diversity of creatures, great and small. Help us to live in a sustainable way for the good of all.  Give our Church the courage to reevaluate the issues around population growth and to speak with moral authority based on realistic assessments of the current global situations 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, South Africa, 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 and educated as a lawyer. Because of his struggle to free his country from the tyranny of apartheid, Mandela spent many years in prison, sentenced to hard labor for life. He became a symbol of hope for oppressed people around the world. Once freed, he was elected the first president of a South Africa free from apartheid. Mandela’s commitment to working for justice through truth-telling, non-violent action, and courageous hope continues to inspire people as they work towards societal transformation and reconciliation. His life serves as a light shining on the path to freedom.

Holy One, we thank you for the life of Nelson Mandela. His persistence in the face of racism and injustice continues to inspire hope in our world. His courageous commitment to non-violence has demonstrated that social transformation is possible through the power of peaceful revolution. Give us wisdom, courage, and determination as we each do what we can to bring about justice through non-violence and love.

 

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. Developing international, intercultural and interreligious friendships helps to build understanding and relationships. By getting to know one another and by sharing our life stories, hopes and values, we can begin to break down barriers of misunderstanding and fear. As we get to know one another as persons, we come to realize that we are more the same than we are different. We begin to open our hearts and hands to one another and are willing to work for the common good of all. This is a day to truly see ourselves as one human family. Relationship building across boundaries of all sorts is more possible than ever before, given the modern means of communication at our fingertips. Let us reach out to one another and build a world-wide community where all are welcomed and respected. If we are connected to one another in what Pope Francis calls “social friendship” war will be unthinkable and violence will cease. This is the hope we all share, and it is the goal of this very special UN solidarity day.

God, we thank you for creating our wondrous, diverse human family. We are each a gift to one another. Help us to treasure and share these gifts as we reach out in friendship. Help us  to be a blessing in the heart of the world and to live as true friends to one another and to our planet.

 

July 30—World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

Human Trafficking involves recruiting, transporting, and possession of human persons through coercion or other fraudulent means to exploit them for profit. The theme for World Day Against Trafficking in Persons for 2022 is “Use and Abuse of Technology.” With the global expansion in the use of technology, intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift of our everyday lives to online platforms, the crime of human trafficking has expanded in cyberspace. The internet and digital platforms offer traffickers numerous tools to recruit, exploit, and control victims; organize their transport and accommodation; advertise victims and reach out to potential clients; communicate among perpetrators; and hide criminal proceeds. All this can now be done with greater speed, cost effectiveness and anonymity. Technology allows traffickers to operate internationally and evade detection with greater ease. They use social media to identify, groom and recruit victims, including children; emails and messaging services are used for the coercion of victims; and online platforms allow traffickers to widely advertise services provided by victims, including child photographic material. Crisis situations can also intensify this problem. Criminals profit from the chaos, desperation, and separation of people, particularly women and children, from support systems and family members. For people displaced from their homes due to violence or natural disasters, online resources can become a trap, especially when it comes to phony travel arrangements and fake job offers targeting vulnerable groups.

Technology also offers great opportunities for eradicating human trafficking. More and more, law enforcement and the criminal justice systems are leveraging technology when they respond to situations of human trafficking. During investigations technology can shed light on the modus operandi of trafficking networks. Digital evidence gained can enhance prosecutions making convictions less dependent on testimony from frightened and intimidated victims. Technology can also assist in providing support services to survivors. Prevention and awareness-raising activities on the internet and social media helps mitigate the risk of people falling victim to trafficking online.

Loving God, we pray for an end to human trafficking. Through education and outreach to the most vulnerable among us, help all to become more aware of those who would harm others through trafficking. Open the hearts of traffickers, so that they will recognize the dignity and worth of every human being. Free those held in the bondage of trafficking and bring them safely back to their families and loved ones.

 

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