Vatican Radio is reporting on the 50th papal Message for the World Day of Peace which is marked on January 1.
“It is not easy to know if our world is presently more or less violent than in the past, or to know whether modern means of communications and greater mobility have made us more aware of violence, or, on the other hand, increasingly inured to it,” the Holy Father writes.
“In any case, we know that this ‘piecemeal’ violence, of different kinds and levels, causes great suffering: wars in different countries and continents; terrorism, organized crime and unforeseen acts of violence; the abuses suffered by migrants and victims of human trafficking; and the devastation of the environment. Where does this lead? Can violence achieve any goal of lasting value? Or does it merely lead to retaliation and a cycle of deadly conflicts that benefit only a few ‘warlords’?”
He goes on to say that violence is not the cure for our broken world. “Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world. At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not of all.”
Instead, we must embrace Jesus’ message of nonviolence, remembering that He also lived in a violent world but became an instrument of reconciliation.
“Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for ‘it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come’ (Mk 7:21),” the pope writes. “But Christ’s message in this regard offers a radically positive approach. He unfailingly preached God’s unconditional love, which welcomes and forgives.”
This can be seen in the way He treated the woman caught in adultery and when, on the night before he died, he told Peter to put away his sword (cf. Mt 26:52).
“Jesus marked out the path of nonviolence. He walked that path to the very end, to the cross, whereby he became our peace and put an end to hostility (cf. Eph 2:14-16).”
For those who believe that nonviolence means surrender or passivity, he cited great historical figures such as Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King as well as Mother Teresa who gave a clear statement of nonviolence when she accepted the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. “We in our family don’t need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace – just get together, love one another… And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world”, St. Teresa said at the time.
The message also cites the contribution of Christian communities in the fall of Communist regimes in events leading up to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989.
“The Christian communities made their own contribution by their insistent prayer and courageous action,” Francis writes. “Particularly influential were the ministry and teaching of Saint John Paul II. Reflecting on the events of 1989 in his 1991 Encyclical Centesimus Annus, my predecessor highlighted the fact that momentous change in the lives of people, nations and states had come about ‘by means of peaceful protest, using only the weapons of truth and justice’.”
He went on to remind that the Catholic Church, along with other religious traditions, has been involved in nonviolent peace building strategies in many countries, sometimes engaging with even the most violent parties in their efforts to build a just and lasting peace.
“I emphatically reaffirm that ‘no religion is terrorist’,” he said. “Violence profanes the name of God. Let us never tire of repeating: ‘The name of God cannot be used to justify violence. Peace alone is holy. Peace alone is holy, not war’!”
While emphasizing the domestic roots of a politics of nonviolence, Pope Francis said that even as he pleads for disarmament and the prohibition of nuclear weapons, he pleads with equal urgency for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children.
“The politics of nonviolence have to begin in the home and then spread to the entire human family,” he writes. “Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practice the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship.”
These simple daily gestures “break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness,” he said.
His invitation to political, religious and economic leaders is to take up the challenge of building up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers and to choose solidarity as a way of making history.
“All of us want peace,” he concluded. “In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds: (…) Everyone can be an artisan of peace”.
Click here to read the entire message.
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