March 8—International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8 is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This year’s theme is Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow. This is a day to dream and work towards a world free from gender bias, stereotypes and discrimination that can rob us of women’s gifts and creativity. It is a day to work towards a world that is inclusive, equitable, and celebrates diversity. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals recognize that women have a significant role in creating a sustainable future for our world. In order to contribute maximally to this effort, women must have equal access to education and healthcare, equal pay for equal work, equal access to all professional opportunities and equal political influence and voice in society.  Gender bias and stereotypes undergird the various forms of discrimination that women face. These must be recognized, called out and rejected if women throughout the world are going to be able to contribute as full and equal partners in creating our global future.

Oh, Holy One, we thank you for the many gifts that women contribute to creating a more just, equitable and sustainable future for our world. Inspire us all to actively break the bias that still holds many women back from reaching their fullest potential. May the many women leaders among us inspire present and future generations of women to know their own gifts and to generously share these for the common good.

March 21—Week of Solidarity Against Racism and Racial Discrimination

Unfortunately, racism still affects human beings around the globe. It is a consequence of colonization and oppression and continues to be exploited by some as a means to divide people from one another. March 21st begins the UN week of solidarity against racism and racial discrimination.  Following the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations (UN) in 1948, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was the first of the major international agreements on human rights adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1965 and entered into force in 1969. Racism and discrimination have continued to lead to “ethnic cleansing” of small minority communities in many corners of the globe, brutal repression of human rights by powerful majority elites, labor exploitation, and race-based bias in the criminal justice systems of many countries. Human rights are based on the innate human dignity of every person. No human being is safe unless all of us are safe. No human rights are respected unless the rights of all human beings are respected. The continued deaths of African Americans in police custody in the USA is a blatant example of how racism can become institutionalized and normalized when society fails to confront it honestly. Unless rooted out, racism spreads like a cancer and has the power to kill an entire society. Truth-telling about the history of racism is the first step in healing.

Oh God, cleanse our hearts of the racism that lingers within each of us. Help us on our journey toward creating a culture of encounter, recognizing every person as our sister and brother. Open our hearts so that we may listen to one another’s stories with empathy, understanding and compassion. Help us as we work to heal ourselves and our cultures of racism and discrimination in all its forms.

 

March 22—World Water Day

Water is a precious gift that sustains all life on this “blue planet” Earth. Our own evolutionary connection to the oceans is reflected in the “salt water” of human sweat and tears. Fresh water originating from nurturing rains and melting snows flows through our own veins, just as it flows through Earth’s arteries of rivers and streams, filling lakes and vast networks of underground aquifers. This year’s theme for World Water Day is Ground Water—Making the Invisible Visible. Most of the fresh water on our planet is ground water. Because it is out of sight, we tend to forget about the crucial role it plays in storing water, safe from evaporation. As climate change causes more and more loss of surface water, human water consumption has begun to threaten groundwater supplies. In December 2022 the UN will hold a summit on groundwater to define actions towards more responsible and sustainable use and protection of this vital natural resource. We call on each of us to do whatever we can to preserve and protect this natural treasure. Each drop saved can make a difference.

God, we praise you for sister Water. We thank you for the many ways she sustains our lives and all life on our planet. Help us to use this gift wisely, considering every drop of water as a blessing. Inspire us to take action to safeguard this precious resource from contamination. Bless us and bless our world as we do what we can to conserve and protect sister Water.

March 25—International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

The International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade is an occasion to discuss the transatlantic slave trade’s causes, consequences, and lessons. During the 400- year history of the transatlantic slave trade, over 17 million men, women and children were captured and sold into slavery. Many millions also died enroute to the Americas during the infamous “middle passage” due to the deplorable conditions onboard slaving ships. Survival meant a lifetime of enslavement, often accompanied by brutality.  Slavers sought to deprive victims of their names, cultures, languages, religious practices, human dignity, and any hope of freedom. Families were often wrenched apart and sold without warning or any information about where loved ones were being taken. In spite of this, generation after generation of enslaved people kept hope alive. The longing for freedom for themselves and their descendants was expressed in prayer, song, storytelling, and rituals. Today, we honor their strength and determination.  We recognize the momentous contributions made to world-wide civilizations by those who suffered so much. This day calls on us all to remember the brutality that resulted from the racism and discrimination that denied the full human dignity of an entire race of people. We must actively reject and resist such attitudes that can lead to horrible suffering for future generations as well.  

God, we ask forgiveness for the suffering caused to so many people by the transatlantic slave trade.  Heal us of the racism that continues to divide us from one another.  Help us to respect, honor and support one another as brothers and sisters, so that we never again deny the full and equal humanity of anyone based on race, ethnicity, religion, or gender.  Help us to work tirelessly to create a world of justice where all people are respected.  Help us to repair the social structures that continue to affect descendants of former slaves and to restore equal opportunities for growth and social flourishing which have been too long denied. 

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