One month into 2018, a lot of hopes are cropping up. Hopes that are desperately igniting the dream that this year will be a successful one.
However listening to Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi Message from last Christmas, one gets the idea that things are not flowing how they in fact should be doing. In his message the Holy Father did not mince his words. “The winds of war are blowing in our world and an outdated model of development continues to produce human, societal and environmental decline”.
The winds of war are blowing in our globe. What a bold affirmation to make! Yet the Pope enfleshes his assertion by the following examples he gives. “We see Jesus in the children of the Middle East who continue to suffer because of growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians… We see Jesus in the faces of Syrian children still marked by the war that, in these years, has caused such bloodshed in that country… We see Jesus in the children of Iraq, wounded and torn by the conflicts that country has experienced in the last fifteen years, and in the children of Yemen, where there is an ongoing conflict that has been largely forgotten, with serious humanitarian implications for its people, who suffer from hunger and the spread of diseases… We see Jesus in the children of Africa, especially those who are suffering in South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Nigeria. We see Jesus in the children worldwide wherever peace and security are threatened by the danger of tensions and new conflicts…”
Furthermore the Argentine Pope lamented over the confrontation on the Korean peninsula, the trouble in Venezuela, the conflict in Ukraine, the unemployed parents, the exploitation of children, the migrant people and the plight of minority groups in Myanmar and Bangladesh. So many problems that our world has to cope with at the beginning of 2018! If we say that we harbour hopes that these problems will be solved how are we going to face them? How are we going to translate our hopes into suggestions that would create a more fraternal world?
In this powerful speech Pope Francis gives us some very important clues. First he pointedly asserts: “May our hearts not be closed as they were in the homes of Bethlehem”. Then he moves on by proposing how are hearts will not be closed. First, by praying for the gift of peace. The latter means having “the will to resume dialogue … between the parties [till] … a negotiated solution can finally be reached”. Second, “recover(ing) respect for the dignity of every person through a shared commitment to rebuild the fabric of society, without regard for ethnic and religious membership”. Third, overcoming confrontation so “that mutual trust may increase in the interest of the world as a whole”. Fourth, ensuring that the minority groups’ dignity “is adequately protected”.
If we translate peace, dialogue, respect, overcoming the tendency to clash violently and ensuring the dignity of the disadvantaged in our day-to-day life we can rest assured that this New Year, which has just started, will surely offer us a sterling opportunity to better our familial and working relationships. It will surely offer us excellent program on which we can help each other, as a society, to create that much-needed fraternal environment that makes us safer and promotes integral development of everyone.
Thus, grounding the year 2018 hopes means, as Pope Francis told us in his 51st message for World Day of Peace, “becom[ing] more and more a universal family and our earth a true ‘common home’” (no, 6). This can be done by applying the four mileposts for action that are addressed not only to asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking but also to every person in our society.
Firstly, how much are we welcoming one another as brothers and sisters? Secondly, how much the duty of recognizing and defending, thus protecting, the inviolable dignity of the most vulnerable members of our society is keenly supported by all of us? Thirdly, in what way are we making available, hence promoting, access to all levels of education to every person? Fourthly, are we allowing everyone to participate fully, therefore integrating, in the life of our society?
Can this be not an encouraging way of grounding 2018 hopes?