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Indifference is the big enemy of peace

VATICAN (SE): Pope Francis leaves no doubt as to what he is addressing in his January 1 Message for Peace, which begins with the words, “God is not indifferent! God cares about mankind! God does not abandon us!”

Printed in italics and replete with explanation marks, the opening lines of Overcome Indifference and Win Peace set the tone for a plea to people to care for their neighbour, to care for the Earth and for all of creation, all three of which he says are intrinsically interconnected.

As a message for the New Year, he sends his best wishes for prosperity and peace to all peoples, and his prayer for the fulfillment of the hopes of every man and woman during 2016, with a trust that the coming year will see a firm and confident engagement in the pursuit of justice and peace.

He then points to the black spots of the year past, which he says can be described as a third world war fought piecemeal, but yet, at the same time, saying there has been plenty that can inspire hope.

He points to the recently completed Conference of Parties on Climate Change in Paris and the Addis Ababa Summit on achieving the sustainable development goals as examples of how the powers of the world can come together for the sake of the common good of all men and women, and all of creation.

In the Church, he isolates the 50th anniversaries of the promulgation of two documents from Vatican II, In our Time (Nostra Aetate), on Church relations with non-Christian religions, and The Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), which he calls landmark publications that helped bring the Church out of the cupboard and into solidarity with the world.

He says, “There are many good reasons to believe in mankind’s capacity to act together in solidarity and, on the basis of our interconnection and interdependence, to demonstrate concern for the more vulnerable of our brothers and sisters for the protection of the common good.”

This he calls the basis for the Jubilee of Mercy, which he hopes people will embrace with a humble and compassionate heart.

Pope Francis then turns to his main theme, the globalisation of indifference, which he describes as people beginning with ignoring God and seeing themselves as their  own creator.

He says it also engenders a false sense of self-sufficiency that leaves a person devoid of feeling for others.

To this he adds an indifference born out of information overload, where news and views come digitally, devoid of a human face, and often in a splintered kaleidoscope jumbled into a hotchpotch of disinformation, which downplays the real gravity of events.

He then parodies the self-satisfied as being numb and insensitive, as they blame the poor for their own poverty, indulge in unwarranted generalisations and claim solutions that can tranquilise or tame those at the bottom of the economic pile into a domesticated silence.

Pope Francis decries this aloofness, pulling out three words, care, common and home, from the under-published subtitle of his famed encyclical, Praise Be: (Laudato Si’), On care for our common home, as three non-negotiables in promoting peace with God and neighbour.

He says that to lose sight of this perspective leads to an institutionalised indifference, which acknowledges no norm above itself and fosters a structured injustice, bent on maintaining power within a clique, while trampling on the rights and needs of others to enslave them in the service of the hedonistic pleasure of the few.

He says this results in an amnesia that has obliterated the action of God in history from the consciousness, masking the memory of Cain delivering his fatal blow to his brother, Abel, and God asking him for an account of his brother’s whereabouts, and then refusing to accept his feeble questioning response, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

“At the origin of the human race, God shows himself to be involved in man’s destiny,” Pope Francis points out. To the slaves in Egypt, God says, “I have seen the affliction of my people… I have heard their cry…” Then, “In Jesus, his son, God has come down among us.”

The pope adds, “Jesus taught us to be merciful, like our heavenly father.”

He then points out that in this, all people are being called into a solidarity, which he describes as a moral virtue demanding commitment in the areas of education, family life, schools and the media, to reinforce the dignity of all firmly in the mind.

But most of all, the pope says that we must never lose sight of the signs of hope, which he points out are plentiful in the plethora of non-government organisations that work amidst epidemics and disasters, as well as among the victims of armed conflict.

There are those too who brave dangers to nurse the sick, the injured and even bury the dead. He points to those who labour for the welfare of migrants, journalists who shape opinion on topics that trouble consciences and all those who defend human rights.

He does not forget the priests and missionaries who remain at the sides of their people regardless of the danger and hardship, and the many families that make supreme sacrifices to provide for their children and teach them the values of solidarity, compassion and fraternity.

Pope Francis also points to civil societies that open their arms to the displaced and work to improve the world for the common good of all.

In addition, he calls for a better deal for prisoners in many parts of the world and for legislation to abolish the death penalty, as well as a new deal for migrants that can allow them to contribute to the welfare of the people of their chosen land.

He isolates the need for labour, land and lodging, as these are three necessities of life which, if lacking, erode the dignity and self-esteem of people and rob them of their sense of hope.

He appeals for an end to discrimination against women in the workforce, as well as in their social mission where they do not receive pay commensurate with the importance of their contribution.

Finally, he turns to the leaders of nations, asking them to refrain from drawing other peoples into conflicts, which destroy not only material wealth, but cultural heritage and social legacy.

He also asks them to look at international debt and adopt policies of cooperation, which do not bow to dictatorships, but respect the values of local populations and do not prove detrimental to the right to life of the unborn.

Expressing a wish for peace in the coming year and making a call for the care for the home that is common to us all, the bishop of Rome simply signs himself as Franciscus.


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