In 1952, at the peak of the Cold War, American painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell was inspired by the humanitarian work of the United Nations (UN). Shortly after, he began painting a picture to present the UN as an organisation that could help save the world. Included were sixty-five people, symbolising the world’s nations – “waiting for the delegates to straighten out the world so that they might live in peace without fear.” Over the next decade, global events would continue to create impressions on the canvas of his mind to portray the painful plight of war-torn and broken communities worldwide.
Rockwell completed the artwork as a mosaic in the 1960s, when the world was going through significant geopolitical and socio-economic change, with people rising against centuries of authoritarianism, colonialism, and discrimination. He named the mosaic the ‘Golden Rule,’ painting people from different religions and ethnic backgrounds. Notably, the word ‘ethnicity’ was beginning to replace ‘race’ due to decades of people being labeled as different from perceived ‘norms.’ Additionally, the civil rights and social justice movements were spreading across America and Northern Ireland. Rockwell used words from Luke’s gospel as the ‘Golden Rule’ to follow for peaceful human co-existence to complete the picture.
“Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31).
In 1985 a mosaic of the ‘Golden Rule’ was presented to the United Nations Headquarters in New York. It continues to hang there as a reminder for humanity, a symbol of how to treat and accept others at the various intersections and boundaries of life that we meet each day.
Community – sharing, participation, and fellowship.
Treating each other as we want to be treated makes us equal and allows us to stand together on a level playing field. A place where we can begin again – to reconstruct more loving and supportive communities in our families, schools, workplaces, and relationships – the world. To discover who we really are, not whom the world tells us we should be.
Fraternity – a group of people united in a relationship with a common purpose.
Significantly, in 2020, Pope Francis beautifully explored this theme of fraternity and social friendship during the outbreak of Covid-19 with his encyclical letter, Fratelli Tutti. Pope Francis tells us, “No one can face life in isolation… We need a community that supports and helps us, in which we can help one another to keep looking ahead”. Amazingly, he was inspired by the Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, whom he met in 2017 and 2019, to work on uniting and spreading peace in the world. As a result, they both signed the Document, which resulted in the UN resolution that made February 4th the International Day of Human Fraternity.
“How important it is for us to dream together…” (Pope Francis, 2020)
Let us not solely wait on others to create change and “straighten out the world so we might live in peace and without fear.” We have the ‘golden rule’ engraved in our hearts to allow peace to grow between us and erase all fear from life – even save the world.
The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell can be viewed at https://www.nrm.org/?s=The+Golden+Rule
Teresa is currently studying Anthropology and International Relations (BA) at Queens University, Belfast.