The United Nations (UN) General Assembly decided unanimously on 21 December that the International Day of Human Fraternity is to be observed on 4 February each year, starting in 2021.
The initiative was led by the Higher Committee for Human Fraternity, of which the World Council of Churches (WCC) interim general secretary, Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, is a member.
The committee’s members met with UN secretary general António Guterres in December 2019 and presented a letter containing the proposal for the internationally recognized day. Since the committee could not present the proposal to the assembly—only a member state can do that—it asked the United Arab Emirates to present it and coordinate efforts to gain the necessary support from UN member states.
The request was presented to the General Assembly on behalf of 34 countries, including Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The resolution gained the support of the 27 member states of the European Union as well as the United States.
On 4 February 2019, Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, signed the historic “Document on Human Fraternity” in Abu Dhabi. The UN General Assembly’s resolution specifically refers to that significant event in Christian-Muslim relations as the inspiration for the date.
Besides the WCC interim general secretary, the Higher Committee for Human Fraternity includes five Muslims and two Catholics, a Jewish rabbi and a former secretary general of UNESCO.