Peace is not merely the absence of war; nor can it be reduced solely to the maintenance of a balance of power between enemies; nor is it brought about by dictatorship. Instead, it is rightly and appropriately called an enterprise of justice.
The Bishops of the Second Vatican Council
CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee
By Leela Ramdeen
Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
This year Pope Francis’ Message for the 53rd World Day of Peace (January 1, 2020) is entitled ‘Peace as a journey of hope: dialogue, reconciliation and ecological conversion’.
The message is divided into five sections:
Opening the fourth point on ecological issues, the pontiff quotes from a point in his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, in which he said humanity has not been “faithful to the treasures of wisdom which we have been called to protect and serve. Faced with the consequences of our hostility towards others, our lack of respect for our common home or our abusive exploitation of natural resources—seen only as a source of immediate profit, regardless of local communities, the common good and nature itself—we are in need of an ecological conversion…We need to change the way we think and see things, and to become more open to encountering others and accepting the gift of creation, which reflects the beauty and wisdom of its Creator” (www.ncronline.org).
Peace, he says, is “a great and precious value, the object of our hope and the aspiration of the entire human family”. In order to establish peace, nations must learn to resolve conflicts through dialogue, and must undergo an “ecological conversion” to protect the environment and foster recognition of our shared humanity.
World conflicts, he says, are “the consequences of our hostility towards others, our lack of respect for our common home or our abusive exploitation of natural resources—seen only as a source of immediate profit, regardless of local communities, the common good and nature itself.”
Conflict “often begins with the inability to accept the diversity of others, which then fosters attitudes of aggrandizement and domination born of selfishness and pride, hatred and the desire to caricature, exclude and even destroy the other.” He says that recognising each other as neighbours is the path to peace, and that “there can be no true peace unless we show ourselves capable of developing a more just economic system”.
The human community “bears the scars of ever more devastating wars and conflicts”. He calls on Christians to reject “the false sense of security sustained by a mentality of fear and mistrust. Mistrust and fear weaken relationships and increase the risk of violence, creating a vicious circle that can never lead to a relationship of peace. Even nuclear deterrence can only produce the illusion of security… Every war is a form of fratricide that destroys the human family’s innate vocation to brotherhood…The desire for peace lies deep within the human heart, and we should not resign ourselves to seeking anything less than this”.
In his 1963 encyclical, Peace on Earth, Pope John XXIII stated that there are four pillars of peace: truth, justice, love and freedom.
“Truth will build peace if every individual sincerely acknowledges not only his/her rights, but also his/her own duties toward others.
Justice will build peace if in practice everyone respects the rights of others and actually fulfills his/her duties toward them.
Love will build peace if people feel the needs of others as their own and share what they have with others, especially the values of mind and spirit that they possess.
Freedom will build peace and make it thrive if, in the choice of the means to that end, people act according to reason and assume responsibility for their own actions…peace lies in the defence and promotion of basic human rights, which every human being enjoys, not as a benefit given by a different social class or conceded by the state, but simply because of our humanity.”
In his Message for World Day of Peace in January 2002, St Pope John Paul II added another ‘pillar’: ‘forgiveness’. He said: “My reasoned conviction, confirmed in turn by biblical revelation, is that the shattered order cannot be fully restored except by a response that combines justice with forgiveness. The pillars of true peace are justice and that form of love which is forgiveness.”