Reflection by the Co-Presidents of Pax Christi International on Pope Francis 53rd World Day of Peace Message 1 January 2020

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Pope Francis’ 52nd World Day of Peace message in the year 2019, invited us to reflect on the theme “Good politics is at the service of peace”. The Pope’s message was that politics, though essential to building human communities and institutions, can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole. This year, 2020 Pope Francis’s 53rd World Day of Peace theme is “Peace as a journey of hope: dialogue, reconciliation and ecological conversion”. The reflection on this theme is captured in the following sections of his message (i) Peace, a journey of hope in the face of obstacles and trial. (2) Peace, a journey of listening based on memory, solidarity and fraternity. (3) Peace, a journey of reconciliation in fraternal communion. (4) Peace, a journey of ecological conversion.

In a world devastated by war and conflicts which often affect the marginalized and the vulnerable of our society, we are being invited to reflect on peace as the object of our hope and the aspiration of the entire human family. The virtue of hope inspires us and keeps us moving forward, even when obstacles seem overwhelming. The Pope discusses the different forms of violence that are tearing humanity apart and their true significance. He points out: “Every war is a form of fratricide that destroys the human family’s innate vocation to brotherhood and [sisterhood]”.

The message of Pope Francis is a very strong message, a vocational message. This vocation is that of children of God, brothers and sisters. But the Pope underlines “our inability to accept the diversity of others, which then fosters attitudes of … domination born of selfishness and pride, hatred and the desire to caricature, exclude and even destroy the other”. He emphasizes the fact that “war is fueled by a perversion of relationship, by hegemonic ambitions, by abuse of power, by fear of others and seeing diversity as an obstacle”. On the contrary, in respecting, trusting others and seeing them as sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters, we can ‘break the spirit of vengeance and set out on the journey of hope’.

Reflecting on this message, we have the opportunity to act against stereotypes and prejudices of others, cultural domination and cultural blindness and various forms of exclusion experienced in our communities, country, and the global world due to their race, gender, creed, ethnicity, status, orientation and age. More importantly, the Pope poses some critical questions to assist us to reflect on our lack of acceptance, mistrust and fear of others as individuals and/or community. “How do we undertake a journey of peace and mutual respect? How do we break the unhealthy mentality of threats and fears? How do we break the current dynamic of distrust?” Another important question to ask is: How do we deal with the divisions within a society, the increase of social inequalities and the refusal to employ the means of ensuring integral human development which endangers the pursuit of the common good? This calls for deep reflection and the prompting of the Holy Spirit who will enlighten us so that we respond positively by becoming artisans of justice and peace. Read more here.