World Humanitarian Day (August 19) invites us to go beyond our own interests and look at the lives, needs and needs of our fellow human beings.
It is also a reminder of the great number of people whose unnoticed generosity makes the world more hospitable to others. In particular, the gift is celebrated by those who devote their entire lives to offering friendship, justice, nourishment, and healing to those who are on the verge of survival. These generous people care for during epidemics, risk their lives in war zones, keep open houses to those excluded by discrimination, bring food to the hungry, defend the unpopular in court, and continue to push for unjust laws to be changed.
Being labeled a philanthropist generally means that you are someone special. It shouldn’t do this. In a just world, humanity would just be another name for humanity. In this world, each person would be accorded a unique value that would be respected by all other people. Mere humanity, regardless of skin color, wealth, country of origin, religion, political beliefs and moral character, would make the life and dignity of every human being equal and worth defending.
In this humanitarian view of the world, caring for others is a natural and necessary thing because we share a common humanity. We rely on others to be born, to learn to speak and to write, for education, transportation, for the existence of computers and our access to them, for camaraderie, for our health, for the safety of our streets and homes, and for what wealth we have. We are not self-made people. Just as we receive from strangers, so it is natural that we give to strangers.
Our shared humanity means that if we are to flourish, we must stand for one another and care for one another. We are the keepers of our sisters and the keepers of strangers. There is a social bond with our life, our work and our wealth. Our growth and prosperity are related to the life and prosperity of other people.
In Christian history, this truth is embodied in the story of the Good Samaritan, who saw his own life as tied to the life of the robbed man on the roadside.
Differences in religion, place of birth, and social status did not matter when compiling the claims of a stranger’s humanity. For Christians, this story has additional depth and pathos because Jesus himself was the ideal good Samaritan who accepted death for us. We are part of the body of Christ, so we are doubly committed to one another and do as Jesus did.
In every world, however, many people give time and money, risk their lives and offer their skills to accompany people in need. They are the people we particularly honor on World Humanitarian Day. During this time, we think of health workers and others who cared for people during the coronavirus epidemic, many of whom became ill and died from the disease. We also think of the people who willingly bring food to starving people, visit the sick, take the time to chat with people who sleep on the street, and make the world a more humane place.
We remember these people on World Humanitarian Day and we thank them.
We also recognize that community organizations are part of a larger human community that is united in respect and generosity. This is a day of gratitude for these organizations.
Fr. Andrew Hamilton SJ is an editorial advisor to Jesuit Communications