What is the International Day of Charity and what does it commemorate?

The International Day of Charity honours Mother Teresa (AFP via Getty Images)
The International Day of Charity honours Mother Teresa (AFP via Getty Images)

Every year on September 5, the world comes together to observe the International Day of Charity.

Created by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 2012, the special day has become widely celebrated across the world over the past decade.

The special occasion is in remembrance of a controversial yet globally famed figure: Mother Teresa.

Here is a look at what the day is all about, how it is celebrated and what it commemorates.

What is the International Day of Charity?

The International Day of Charity aims to raise awareness and provide a common platform for charitable activities on a global scale.

The objective is to inspire people and NGOs to help others through volunteering and philanthropic activities.

Before gaining the support of the UN, Charity Day was conceived by the Hungarian Civil Society, with the support of the Hungarian parliament and government.

On December 17, 2012, in response to a proposal by Hungary, the UN got behind the idea, recognising September 5 as the International Day of Charity.

How do people celebrate the International Day of Charity?

Those who wish to mark the occasion often take the day as an opportunity to do some good.

You can volunteer for your favourite charities, hold a fundraiser, donate some money or goods, or get involved in humanitarian work.

It doesn’t matter how big or small the activity is, as long as it’s charitable.

What does the International Day of Charity commemorate?

International Day of Charity commemorates the anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who passed away on September 5, 1997.

Also known as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, she was an Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun who ostensibly dedicated her life to helping others.

For nearly 50 years, many said that Mother Teresa cared for the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying, becoming a role model for selfless service.

In 1979, she was given the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her charitable efforts to overcome poverty and distress, and promote peace.

At the time, she refused the conventional ceremonial banquet for laureates, asking for the six-figure sum to be given to the poor in India instead.

However, even though she was made a saint, many prominent people, including governments, organisations. and the media, have criticised her practices, and those of the Missionaries of Charity, the order which she founded. Objections include the quality of medical care the order provided, and allegations of colonialism and racism, as well as the order’s links to questionable public figures. As such, Saint Teresa is regarded as a controversial figure.