Human Fraternity is an essential element of the society. It seeks to promote cultural and religious tolerance and it focuses on interfaith harmony, dialogue, and mutual respect. The word fraternity is defined as a group of people that share common interests. Fraternity also means the state of mutual support within a group. The people around the world would begin to embrace these ideas. Instead of focusing on our differences we should focus on what we as human beings have in common.
Focusing on the Sri Lankan context, it is possible to present different opinions on Human Fraternity. Concentrating back in history, many instances of the breakdown of human fraternity can be identified in the Sri Lankan context. The most recent incident was the Easter Sunday attack which happened on 21st of April 2019. This attack was carried out by a group of Islamic extremists. As a result, the brotherhood between Christians and Muslims as well as the Sinhala – Islam collaboration was broken.
This incident caused many problems in Sri Lanka due to the estrangement between Sinhala and Islam communities. However, the easter attack has turned in to an event of grief and sadness because the tragedy it caused among the people was not served justice in the court of law. Besides, politic is a major obstacle to human fraternity in Sri Lanka. Politicians seek to break the existing human fraternity in society in order to achieve their goals.
My question is whether the Sri Lankan people are aware of human fraternity? If the answer is no, then what should be done to raise awareness of human fraternity in Sri Lankan context?
It is important to write about Pope Francis’s third encyclical called “Fratelli Tutti”. Fratelli Tutti means “all brothers and sisters” and is taken from the Admonitions of Saint Francis of Assisi. It turns the world upside down, placing human dignity at the center. This encyclical calls for the creation of a new kind of solidarity to tackle the crises the world is currently facing.
Pope Francis calls on us all to play our part in building peace, human fraternity and to focus on becoming a neighbor to others in particular to welcome migrants, and to resist racism, prejudice and discrimination. Fratelli Tutti calls us to work together to develop a true understanding of human fraternity. Teaching such ideas from the grassroots to the upper echelons will enable the preservation of human fraternity.
Dear Readers, in commemoration of the International Day of Human Fraternity and World Day of Social Justice ALL Forum intends to publish this issue of E-Newsletter by strongly emphasising that Human Fraternity is crucial to establish peace, harmony and justice throughout the world.
This New Year 2022 already seems to be headed down a path of jeopardy. Serious political tensions arising around the world involving super powers aligning troops on the brink of war between Russia and Ukraine, North Korea resuming testing of Nuclear missiles and advancement of destructive machines, Uyghur crisis, China – Taiwan conflict, Myanmar Military crisis and numerous conflicts taking place elsewhere.
Alongside these tensions we are also living our daily lives with growing gaps between people of various faiths mainly due to political propaganda, fundamentalism and religious extremism, all polluting good teachings of every religion and its pluralistic ways of living in harmony. It is very sad that in modern times where knowledge, communication, technology and infrastructure has advanced to its highest point than ever before we have regressed to selfish and fundamentailstic practices, being concerned only about ourself and those who belong to our own faith.
We need to ask ourself how we could come out of this and move towards achieving Human Fraternity. How we must learn to respect and accept our neighbours the way Christ has taught us and how we must build a fraternal society by bringing together believers of all faiths and practice the core teachings which is to: care for creation, being inclusive, spreading harmony, being restorative and practicing peace.
As we commemorate the International Day of Human Fraternity, let us commit to do more to promote cultural and religious tolerance, understanding and dialogue.”
The world is vividly witnessing the killings of Myanmar‘s military at the time of overviewing the “act” part of the papal document in this month newsletter, which is coincidental. No matter how good the “Good Samaritan” was, if he had just left the robbed and injured behind, no one would have had to die lonely on the side of the road. Likewise, no matter how well a Christian is in doing “seejudge” part as CST’s methodology, it would have been nothing more than intellectual play unless he or she tries to save the dying people, particularly Myanmar people at this moment, in the face of indiscriminated shootings by soldiers who are “not riot police but combat troops” witnessed by Myanmar citizens at the street protests.
As in the parable of the good Samaritan, many people seem to think more and more that they have nothing to do with their business or plans even when they see someone falling down or being seriously injured on the streets. They reject strangers who are regarded to threaten their identities and established order, and consider only those who meet the purpose they seek as “neighbors.” We have to go beyond this world of “between ourselves.” Social fraternity, which can transcend boundaries, is not a false universalism that seeks to uniform and level out everyone.
An inadequate understanding of universal love deprives the world of diversity, beauty, and ultimately humanity. For “the future is not monochrome; if we are courageous, we can contemplate it in all the variety and diversity of what each individual person has to offer. How much our human family needs to learn to live together in harmony and peace, without all of us having to be the same!” (no. 100)
It is a great challenge for Christians because it is not really easy to go beyond the culture of “between ourselves”. The Myanmar military has been able to rule for 60 years by separating the Burmese, which account for some 70 percent of the population, and 160 other tribal groups, to fight each other. Typically, Rohingya Muslims were bleeding their blood on the altar by the military as scapegoats. Recently, there was also a media report which said that a white youth went into an Asian massage parlor in Atlanta, Georgia, US and fired a firearm killing 8 people including 6 Asians due to a psychological disease, but he was not spared free from the “hate crimes” caused by hating racial differences or ethnic differences such as “Asian” people.
The reason for the recent “Not In My Backyard” among residents who have banned the construction of a Muslim shrine in Daegu, southern part of S. Korea, seems to be not because of “inconvenience of daily life” but rather regarded as “unwanted facility” such as charnel houses and garbage dumps. It would be clear if the residents were asked whether they would have opposed it so much even if a Catholic or Protestant churches, or Buddhist temple came in. In a world where “hate in us” is real, it is extremely difficult to dream of a culture of welcoming strangers, migrants and refugees.
Complex problems arise when immigrants become our neighbors. It is desirable for each person to enjoy a dignified life where he or she is born so that he or she does not have to migrate, but until such conditions are met, the rights of migrants and their families should be respected. When immigrants come to us, Pope Francis ask us that we should show an attitude of welcome, protect, promote and integrate.
For “it is not a case of implementing welfare programmes from the top down, but rather of undertaking a journey together, through these four actions, in order to build cities and countries that, while preserving their respective cultural and religious identity, are open to differences and know how to promote them in the spirit of human fraternity”. (no. 129) A mid- to longterm international cooperation system is needed. Migrants from different cultures can be mutual gifts. Thanks to the migrants, the society is given an opportunity for abundance and full human development. We should treat immigrants as human beings with equal dignity, not as a threat.
Through meetings with other cultures, we experience greater abundance and maturity. We should communicate with each other, discover each other’s grace, and make a match, and use each other’s differences as an opportunity to mature.The Pope says it is difficult to understand himself and his country clearly and completely without meeting and exchanging with others.
“In fact, a healthy openness never threatens one’s own identity. A living culture, enriched by elements from other places, does not import a mere carbon copy of those new elements, but integrates them in its own unique way. The result is a new synthesis that is ultimately beneficial to all, since the original culture itself ends up being nourished…For “our own cultural identity is strengthened and enriched as a result of dialogue with those unlike ourselves. Nor is our authentic identity reserved by an impoverished isolation”. (no.148)
It is no exaggeration to say that the promotion of diversity depends on how active civil society movements, or popular movements, are at the local, national and international levels. Pope Francis, who has discovered the importance of popular movements, calls it a “social poet.”
“Those movements manage various forms of popular economy and of community production. What is needed is a model of social, political and economic participation ‘that can include popular movements and invigorate local, national and international governing structures with that torrent of moral energy that springs from including the excluded in the building of a common destiny’, while also ensuring that ‘these experiences of solidarity which grow up from below, from the subsoil of the planet – can come together, be more coordinated, keep on meeting one another’. This, however, must happen in a way that will not betray their distinctive way of acting as ‘sowers of change, promoters of a process involving millions of actions, great and small, creatively intertwined like words in a poem’. In that sense, such movements are ‘social poets’ that, in their own way, work, propose, promote and liberate.”(no.169)
Our religious experience and wisdom are the ultimate foundation for respecting human dignity and recognizing each other as true brothers and sisters. In society, there should be a place for reflection from religious traditions, which have accumulated experiences and wisdom over a long period of time, as well as stories of powerful people and experts. The mission of the church is not limited to the private sphere, but also plays a public role in promoting the development of mankind and universal brotherhood. A journey of peace is also possible between religions. Believers should stop their acts of contempt, hatred, xenophobia, or deny others, which are far from God’s love and neighbor’s love. This is why we, Christians, should go out to build peace and become true “people of dialogue” for interreligious dialogue and cooperation.
Fratelli Tutti’s View on the World Today and Reflection
By Dr. Paul Hwang, Director of ALL Forum
Let’s briefly introduce chapters 1 and 2 of the encyclical from the perspective of ‘See-JudgeAct’, the empirical methodology that has become the traditional methodology of Catholic Social Teachings (CSTs) since Vatican II especially the document Gaudium et Spes. As shown in the reality analysis of “The Joy of the Gospel” or Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis’ view on the reality of world today seems reflected from the title “Dark Clouds over a Closed World.” The Pope points out one by one how the world is closed and what the dark clouds in the closedworld mean.
First, there are movements for peace and friendship, but more extreme and aggressive nationalism, religious fanaticism, and new forms of selfishness are spreading. Globalization has brought all peoples in the world much closer, but not like the relation of brother and sisters. Cultural colonization is taking place, with individual interests prioritized and community life weakened, and as a result, only consumerism and individualism are emphasized. In many countries, economic polarization has become a tool of politics, lacking sound discussions or plans for everyone to improve people’s lives and develop common good. In a world where “throw-away culture” is prevalent, not only food and goods but also humans are often treated as such. Poor and disabled people, human foetuses, and the elderly are considered “no longer necessary.” The reality that the elderly are dying in indifference and isolation under the Covid-19 situation, and increase in racism, makes us ask back the ultimate purpose of economic growth and human development.
Today, human rights and human dignity are not respected equally in many countries. Many forms of injustice persist due to economic systems that do not hesitate to exploit, abandon, and kill humans. And women do not enjoy the same rights as men, and human trafficking or modern slavery is practiced in many parts of the world. The joint declaration of Pope Francis and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayyeb in 2019, which became a basic spirit for “All Brothers” or Fratelli Tutti, clarifies this point. “In the name of innocent human life that God has forbidden to kill, affirming that whoever kills a person is like one who kills the whole of humanity, and that whoever saves a person is like one who saves the whole of humanity.” (“Human Fraternity”)
We save the whole human race by saving one person, which is also emphasized in All Brothers. “True, a worldwide tragedy like the Covid-19 pandemic momentarily revived the sense that we are a global community, all in the same boat, where one person’s problems are the problems of all. Once more we realized that no one is saved alone; we can only be saved together.” (no. 32)
Modern digital culture takes off, monitors, and anonymizes people’s lives. Digital media gives the illusion of communication, but it can prevent the development of real interpersonal relationships by losing contact with specific reality. However, the Pope emphasizes that “True wisdom demands an encounter with reality.” (no. 47). We can find the truth in the conversation we have together, and it requires patience. Information without wisdom prevents you from realizing the core of the problem or the meaning of life. The process of building brotherhood is only possible when you are free to meet. This open attitude in Asian situations leads to the wisdom of acknowledging and accepting religious and cultural diversity and pluralism. Such attitude is also shown in the joint declaration: “In the name of God and of everything stated thus far; Al-Azhar al-Sharif and the Muslims of the East and West, together with the Catholic Church and the Catholics of the East and West, declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as the code of conduct” (Human Fraternity)
In Chapter 2, Pope Francis continues the aforementioned problems with the theme of “Who is my neighbour” in the “Good Samaritan” (Lk 10:25-37) among the parables of Jesus in the gospel. In Jesus’ time, the Jews ignored and hated Samaritans, saying they lived in areas where pagan rituals were practiced, considering them as filthy and repulsive beings. Jesus completely reverses the conventional idea in the parable, stressing that it was not the priest or the Levine, but the ignored Samaritan who helped the abandoned Jews. The Samaritans went beyond cultural and historical barriers and became borderless neighbours to the wounded Jews. There are many parts in the Bible that ask people who are far from related to their neighbours or even strangers to embrace them. The Old Testament texts (Ex 22:20 and 23:9; Lev 19:33-34; Num 24:21-22) remind us of the memories of the Jews once living as strangers in Egypt. Even in the New Testament, it appears several times (1 Jn 2:10-11; 3:14; 4:20), including the phrase “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Gal 5:14).
In this context, we can better understand the importance of the Good Samaritan parable. This story asks us to rediscover our calling to build new social bonds as citizens of each country and around the world. We are created to pursue love and cannot be indifferent to pain. We will meet a suffering person anytime soon, so “Each day we have to decide whether to be Good Samaritan or indifferent bystanders.” (no. 69) Such a Good Samaritan story is constantly being present in our daily lives. We can say that the core of faith is to participate in creating a just society that cares for the suffering. Therefore, in the final document of the Second World Bishop’s Synod, Justice in theWorld(1971) it is clear: “Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or, in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation.” (no.6)