Our Shared Human Fraternity Against Racism and Extremism
The United Nations General Assembly, in a unanimous vote, declared February 4 as the “International Day of Human Fraternity.” The date commemorates the signing of the “Human fraternity for world peace and living together” document by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmad al-Tayyib, two years ago on this date. The document calls for the adoption of a culture of dialogue, cooperation, and reciprocal understanding as the basis for achieving common good.
The 2019 document and the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity convened at its behest — whose membership includes Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders — appeal “to every upright conscience that rejects deplorable violence and blind extremism, and to those who cherish the values of tolerance and fraternity that are promoted and encouraged by religions.”
As we commemorate the first International Day of Human Fraternity this year, let us first take a moment to reflect on the common successes of the human family in 2020. Last year, amid the global pandemic, the world saw fine examples of cooperation and reciprocal understanding.
The development of a new vaccine for COVID-19 in only months, and the fact that millions have already received their first shot, should awe us at the power of human ingenuity when confronted with the most challenging scenarios.
Fraternity and the will to support one another in times of need were present in the scientists who worked day and night to roll out the vaccine, and it was present as well in the essential workers who stayed active throughout 2020, and who put their lives at risk to help and assist others.
This past year also saw the signing of the historic Abraham Accords, through which Israel and several Arab and Muslim nations normalized their relations. The Accords show that, as the Human Fraternity document states, “dialogue, understanding and the widespread promotion of tolerance and acceptance of others” contribute significantly to reducing many of the problems that weigh so heavily on a large part of humanity.
If 2020 showed like no other year in recent times that humans face a common destiny, and that fraternity is key to achieving lasting solutions to many of our common problems, our main challenge in 2021 will be to keep up the pace and encourage further such actions. The current crisis represents an opportunity to draw from the fact that we are all a single global community, and that one person’s problems are the problems of all.
In particular, the fight against all forms of racism and hate calls for urgent attention. The world is facing an unprecedented economic and social crisis, and efforts should be undertaken to prevent this situation from becoming fertile ground for hate and extremism. We must stop hate and prevent its recurrence.
As World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said, speaking at a Human Fraternity conference in Rome in 2019, “the campaign against racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Christian attacks will be infinitely more effective if it is united. Christians should lead the defense of Jews and Muslims. Muslims should lead the defense of Christians and Jews. Jews should lead the defense of Muslims and Christians. And we must all stand together against racism.”
As we fight against all forms of racism, we must also ensure that the post-Covid world order is based on peace, freedom, dialogue, collaboration, and justice. These, the Fraternity document recalls, are the pillars of an enduring human experience. The world of 2021 is becoming more of a small village — we are all connected, intertwined, and our destiny is common and shared. We must address the misery in which millions live, and widen the circle of prosperity and liberty. Hate, racism, fear of others, and extremism grow out of the seeds of exclusion and exploitation. Against such diseases, inclusion and common prosperity are the best vaccines.
On this first International Day of Human Fraternity, let us take a moment to think about the challenges ahead, and how we may, as members of the human family, help one another rediscover peace, justice, goodness, beauty, and coexistence. These values form the core basis of a peaceful future — a future of human fraternity.
Marcos Roca is a member of the flagship program of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), the WJC Jewish Diplomatic Corps, under the vision and leadership of WJC President Ronald S. Lauder.