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The Alphabet of Lent – Letter X

X for xenophobia

A word that, you have guessed, is not found in the texts of the gospel.
But the reality to which it refers is really there, and Jesus has addressed it openly.
It is about a scene which is perhaps less known, but it has an important message for us (Mark 9:38-40).

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name
and we told him to stop,
because he was not one of us.”

Some of us – many of us perhaps? – would react as John did.
John was known as the disciple Jesus especially loved…
Yet, he still needed to learn an important lesson from his Master.

We may feel uneasy at John’s initiative.
To forbid someone to drives out demons in the name of Jesus is not an attitude that is without consequence.
What prompts this act, the motivation that inspires it, is reprehensible.
Jesus does not fail to correct his apostle:

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said.
“For no one who does a miracle in my name
can in the next moment say anything bad about me,
for whoever is not against us is for us”.

A definition of xenophobia, easy to understand, describes it as hostility towards strangers.
In other words: we keep at a distance from those who do not belong to our own group.

Those people are not from among us, and we do not want them to meddle in what concerns us!
Their way of speaking, their manners, displease us.
We suspect them, we consider them ‘strange’ – are they not precisely ‘strangers’?
It can even be that, secretly, seeing them different from us, we may judge them… less good than we are!

The words of Jesus remain as appropriate in this 21st century as they were in the first century:
“Whoever is not against us is for us”.

A lesson that we need to learn and not only as regards religious practice.
Social relations, group interactions, daily meetings –
it is our whole human interaction that must be inspired by the teaching of Christ.

He expects no less from those who call themselves his disciples…


Source: Image: Scripture Images

International Day of Education – 24 January

The sixth International Day of Education will be celebrated on 24 January 2024 under the theme “learning for lasting peace”. 

UNESCO is dedicating the International Day of Education celebrated on 24 January 2024 to the crucial role education and teachers play in countering hate speech, a phenomenon which has snowballed in recent years with the use of social media, damaging the fabric of our societies.  

The world is seeing a surge of violent conflicts paralleled by an alarming rise of discrimination, racism, xenophobia, and hate speech. The impact of this violence transcends any boundary based on geography, gender, race, religion, politics, offline and online. An active commitment to peace is more urgent today than ever: Education is central to this endeavor, as underlined by the UNESCO Recommendation on Education for Peace, Human Rights and Sustainable Development. Learning for peace must be transformative, and help empower learners with the necessary knowledge, values, attitudes and skills and behaviours to become agents of peace in their communities.

Source: Text & Image: UNESCO

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – 21 March

The United Nations’ (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed with a series of events and activities worldwide on March 21 each year. The day aims to remind people of racial discrimination’s negative consequences. It also encourages people to remember their obligation and determination to combat racial discrimination.

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was established six years after an event, known as the Sharpeville tragedy or Sharpeville massacre, which captured worldwide attention. This event involved police opening fire and killing 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid “pass laws” in Sharpeville, South Africa, March 21, 1960.

The UN General Assembly called on the international community to increase its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination when it proclaimed the day as a UN Day of observance in 1966. It also called on all world states and organizations to participate in a program of action to combat racism and racial discrimination in 1983. It held the World Conference against Racism and Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in 2001. The UN continues its work to fight against all forms of racial intolerance.

The UN logo is often associated with marketing and promotional material for this event. It features a projection of a world map (less Antarctica) centered on the North Pole, inscribed in a wreath consisting of crossed conventionalized branches of the olive tree. The olive branches symbolize peace and the world map depicts the area of concern to the UN in achieving its main purpose, peace and security. The projection of the map extends to 60 degrees south latitude, and includes five concentric circles.

Source: Text:   Image:


International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – 21 March

2016 Theme: Challenges and Achievements of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action – 15 years after

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is an opportunity to renew our commitment to building a world of justice and equality where xenophobia and bigotry do not exist. We must learn the lessons of history and acknowledge the profound damage caused by racial discrimination. »       Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

We need to fight racism everywhere, every day. But on 21 March – proclaimed by the General Assembly as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – all eyes are on the issue. This year, the International Day is devoted to challenges and achievements of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action – 15 years after the landmark document was adopted at the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in South Africa.

The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action is the most comprehensive framework for fighting racism and related forms of intolerance and discrimination. It represents the firm commitment of the international community to tackle these issues, and serves as a basis for advocacy efforts worldwide.

It contains a broad range of measures aimed at combating racism in all of its manifestations, and underscores the human rights of all groups suffering from racial discrimination, emphasizing their right to participate freely and equally in political, social, economic and cultural life.


« Fifteen years after the Durban Conference very little progress has been made in tackling racism, afrophobia, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, » three human rights experts said.  There is a clear need for putting into practice what was agreed to in Durban. This year’s anniversary, following the 10-year anniversary observed in 2011, provides the opportunity to recommit to taking the actions outlined in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and for all countries, individually and collectively, to intensify efforts aimed at reducing instances of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Photo: “People of African descent have for centuries been victims of racism, racial discrimination and enslavement and of the denial by history of many of their rights… they should be treated with fairness and respect for their dignity and should not suffer discrimination of any kind.” – Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, 2001. UN Photo/Logan Abassi, Haiti 2012
Source: Text & Photo: UN website