World Day of Humanity: #NotAlone Event

Declaration of Human Fraternity prepared by Nobel Peace laureates

On a sunny Spring day in Rome, the World Day of Humanity global ceremony began officially in mid afternoon, June 10, 2023 in Vatican City at Saint Peter’s Square.

The signing of the Declaration of Human Fraternity 2023 as prepared by more than 30 Nobel Peace Prize laureates took place at 6pm. Today it was signed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate (2006) and Grameen Bank (Bank for the Poor) founder, Muhammad Yunus; and by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State for the Vatican, since Pope Francis is still hospitalized. Despite his hospitalization and incomplete collection of signatures, the Pope wanted the celebration to proceed.

This day is set aside to emphasize the spirit of humanity as embodied by Pope Francis’s encyclical letter, “Fratelli Tutti,” published in 2020. The guiding principles of the document are under the advancement and protection of the Foundation, created in December 2021, and is led by Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, a governing board and council.

According to a Vatican press release:

“The Foundation’s mission areas are 1. to support and design pathways of art and faith; 2. to invest in cultural and spiritual formation through events, experiences, pathways and spiritual exercises; 3. to promote dialogue with cultures and other religions on the themes of the Pontiff’s latest encyclicals, in order to build a ‘social alliance’.”

Today was the first significant event for the whole global community since its founding. The #NotAlone event is a celebration of spiritual life from the smallest humans to its oldest, because according to its principles, today the world needs space for spiritual culture and dialogue, especially in light of the interfaith, social, and political dimensions of an increasingly complex society. Through collective responsibility to preserve freedom, promote equality, diversity, and inclusion, humans can help spread authentic peace, love, and stability.

This monumental task did not begin yesterday nor will it end tommorrow. Pope Francis, who is named after Saint Francis of Assisi, the beloved saint who is a protector of nature, has made many pilgrimages to advance world peace and healing, including to the indigenous territory in Canada; to Africa; and to Awali in Bahrain where he held outdoor prayer meetings.

In Fratelli Tutti, which means “Fraternity and Social Friendship” Pope Francis writes:

“Love, then, is more than just a series of benevolent actions. Those actions have their source in a union increasingly directed towards others, considering them of value, worthy, pleasing and beautiful apart from their physical or moral appearances. Our love for others, for who they are, moves us to seek the best for their lives. Only by cultivating this way of relating to one another will we make possible a social friendship that excludes no one and a fraternity that is open to all.”

No where was this more evident than in the carefully planned activities for participants and pilgrims to the Saint Peter’s Square today. In fact, there were virtual Squares being held in a variety of sister cities or locations such as Buenos Aires, Lima, Nagasaki, Congo, Jerusalem, Ethiopia, and Fatima. The telecasts included on-screen interviews between celebrity host and presenters at those locations and live examples of humanitarian and religiously-based charity.

For example in Ethiopia, Bruja band played native African song led by a visually-disabled male; playing guitar and drums they are #NotAlone. They were once refugees in a huge camp that is now accepting Africans from Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and a host of other countries. One mother stated that despite having little, “we gave them our house,” so a mother and her children could be assimilated into the village. A spokesperson said, “We are sharing as a hosting community, even though we face water scarcity, lack of food, and basic sanitation.”

Between 4pm to 6pm at the Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City there were celebrated artists performing, such as Hauser on cello; Andrea Bocelli opera-star; Carolina Rey; a Sengalese choir; and children beginning to line up for their star performance for singing Michael Jackson’s pop-song “We are One” and linking hands in a square long embrace.

Because Pope Francis is still in recovery from a recent operation, Cardinal Parolin read the Pope’s message on “Fraternity and Peace for the Good of the World.” There are familiar themes represented by the Foundation, such as the difference between “fraternity” and “humanity.” The pope emphasizes the inviolability of human fraternity; that is, its sacred character must include “not give me, but what I can give.” He compares human fraternity to that which is “a fragile and precious good” that can help put an end to hatred and violence.

The universal nature of humanity and fraternity did not arise from a study of the lives of saints and the Bible only; Pope Francis includes contemporaries and other historical figures:

“I felt inspired particularly by Saint Francis of Assisi, but also by others of our brothers and sisters who are not Catholics: Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Mahatma Gandhi and many more. Yet I would like to conclude by mentioning another person of deep faith who, drawing upon his intense experience of God, made a journey of transformation towards feeling a brother to all. I am speaking of Blessed Charles de Foucauld.” — Pope Francis in “Fratelli Tutti”

We have to try to demonstrate love even towards those who despise us, with whom we believe we have little in common, or we think we must give up on. Sometimes it’s hardly easy in the Information Age when social influencers are quick to cast judgment, often convincing us they are the status quo (when in fact it can be computer-generated algorithm).

So what best encapsulates the global message of universal love and acceptance for humankind?

According to Alejandro, a Poet Laureate who was selected to read his essay, it is the image of a “human hug.” (I am sure he is talking about a clean and appropriate hug here with an arm around the shoulder without chest contact.) His poem beautifully explains why. For instance, it is an action that does not require words or translation; done right it can convey empathy and support; it is a form of validation; it costs nothing; and seen from the outside it is symbol of hope.

Alejandro’s speech is simple yet replete. Hugs transcend time and space, or as the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue describes, “beyond space and geography.” The hundreds of children who held hands for a symbolic hug at Saint Peter’s Square will forever remember this moment in history: hugging the sky for world day in humanity.

If only our adults today can learn from the children and cease their wars and relentless competition. Instead, every day we are drawing closer to the darkness of the ages. Perhaps another Nagasaki bomb and a recounting of that incident, if humanity lives through that, assembled later for more memorial tablets near the church.

The picture of hugging is also a reminder of the cheer offered by Buddhist humanitarian organization, Tzu-Chi. Whether it is the aftermath of an earthquake, flood, or drought, those sent on missionary work are trained to alleviate suffering, and aid in reconstruction efforts. It reminds me of when we offer students congratulations for a good effort. Or the smiles you see when the convalescents of a nursing home have young visitors come to cheer them up and offer human appreciation. Hugs bring tears of gratitude for someone who has been locked away in prison for a long time. Americans share more hugs with their pets than with fellow humans since “they are safer.”

Yet if someone did not tell us that the poor are “untouchables,” that the advocates for the environment are “useless,” or that associations fighting for peace are “wasting time,” would society have devolved into World War such as happening today? Human lack of attention to vital elements for the future of posterity are leading to climate change with all its attendant ills, including the massive ongoing forest fires in Canada, fracking-related earthquakes in Central Asia, flooding and sea-level rise, and increases in radiation throughout the hemispheres.

By practicing spirituality, we do have the chance to make the world a better place, especially starting with ourselves and our families. This is the touchstone moment when we can better glean what is truth from untruth. For instance, admirable as Dr. Ron Paul and the Institute for Peace and Prosperity is, the libertarians adamantly deny climate change. A free-market philosophy means that the public does not need national or state parks, any kind of public education, even public medical assistance, especially not for refugees.

“Despite the challenges of climate change, we still open our doors, but we call for further support.” —#NotAlone, Peace Builder, spokesperson from Ethiopia

Someday Americans may be on the receiving end of needing worldwide assistance, and having to defend their worth as a human-focused, pro-environment, responsible society that supports localized work, living wages, and fair-trade development. The takeaway message from World Day of Humanity 2023 may be as Cardinal Parolin says, “No one is saved alone. We are part of a common fate. Together we can make it because we are all on the same big boat.

Watch the livestreamed event at

Report by Christine H. Kroll, M.A., P.E.