Vatican City ( AsiaNews) -Peace is not just threatened by wars- such as the bloodshed in the Middle East and Africa in particular - but also "every denial of human dignity": Lack of food, "the waste" of people considered "useless" such as the elderly or aborted children , and also by "the greedy exploitation of natural resources". This can be partly explained by lack of a "culture of encounter" that makes us capable of caring for others and "transforms selfishness into self-giving revenge into forgiveness", according to Pope Francis' vision of the world in 2013, the traditional topic of the speech that the pope addressed to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, representing 180 countries, on the occasion of New Year greetings.
The Pope's speech addressed situations related to regions or states - such as the Middle East - as well as problems that have ethical, social and cultural roots. For example, the " growing attitudes of prejudice, for allegedly religious reasons, are tending to deprive Christians of their liberties and to jeopardize civil coexistence " , which Francis quoted talking about Asia. Referring to that continent the Pope recalled the Korean peninsula and , without naming it , China . "I - said - wish to implore from God the gift of reconciliation on the peninsula, and I trust that, for the good of all the Korean people, the interested parties will tirelessly seek out points of agreement and possible solutions. Asia, in fact, has a long history of peaceful coexistence between its different civil, ethnic and religious groups. Such reciprocal respect needs to be encouraged, especially given certain troubling signs that it is weakening, particularly where growing attitudes of prejudice, for allegedly religious reasons, are tending to deprive Christians of their liberties and to jeopardize civil coexistence. The Holy See looks, instead, with lively hope to the signs of openness coming from countries of great religious and cultural traditions, with whom it wishes to cooperate in the pursuit of the common good".
The Middle East as well as Asia, the
Pope said he never ceases to "be hopeful that the conflict in
Syria will finally come to an end". He
thanked many public authorities and individuals who took part in the day
of fasting and prayer which he launched in September last year. The Pope also expressed the hope that "the
Geneva 2 Conference', convened for 22 January next, marks the beginning of the
of peace. . At the same time, full respect for humanitarian law
remains essential. It is unacceptable that unarmed civilians, especially
children, become targets. I also encourage all parties to promote and ensure in
every way possible the provision of urgently-needed aid to much of the
population, without overlooking the praiseworthy effort of those countries -
especially Lebanon and Jordan - which have generously welcomed to their
territory numerous refugees from Syria.".
"Remaining in the Middle East, I note with concern the tensions affecting the region in various ways. I am particularly concerned by the ongoing political problems in Lebanon, where a climate of renewed cooperation between the different components of civil society and the political powers is essential for avoiding the further hostilities which would undermine the stability of the country. I think too of Egypt, with its need to regain social harmony, and Iraq, which struggles to attain the peace and stability for which it hopes. At the same time, I note with satisfaction the significant progress made in the dialogue between Iran and the Group of 5+1 on the nuclear issue".
"Everywhere, the way to resolve open questions must be that of diplomacy and dialogue". What is needed is courage "to go beyond the surface of the conflict" and to consider others in their deepest dignity, so that unity will prevail over conflict and it will be "possible to build communion amid disagreement".21 In this regard, the resumption of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians is a positive sign, and I express my hope that both parties will resolve, with the support of the international community, to take courageous decisions aimed at finding a just and lasting solution to a conflict which urgently needs to end".
And The exodus of Christians from the Middle East and North Africa continues to be a source of concern. They want to continue to be a part of the social, political and cultural life of countries which they helped to build, and they desire to contribute to the common good of societies where they wish to be fully accepted as agents of peace and reconciliation.
In other parts of Africa as well, Christians are called to give witness to God's love and mercy. We must never cease to do good, even when it is difficult and demanding, and when we endure acts of intolerance if not genuine persecution. In vast areas of Nigeria violence persists, and much innocent blood continues to be spilt. I think above all of the Central African Republic, where much suffering has been caused as a result of the country's tensions, which have frequently led to devastation and death. As I assure you of my prayers for the victims and the many refugees, forced to live in dire poverty, I express my hope that the concern of the international community will help to bring an end to violence, a return to the rule of law and guaranteed access to humanitarian aid, also in the remotest parts of the country. For her part, the Catholic Church will continue to assure her presence and cooperation, working generously to help people in every possible way and, above all, to rebuild a climate of reconciliation and of peace among all groups in society. Reconciliation and peace are likewise fundamental priorities in other parts of Africa. I think in particular of Mali, where we nonetheless note the promising restoration of the country's democratic structures, and of South Sudan, where, on the contrary, political instability has lately led to many deaths and a new humanitarian crisis".
There are also "threats" that have ethical, cultural and social roots. "Peace is also threatened by every denial of human dignity, firstly the lack of access to adequate nutrition. We cannot be indifferent to those suffering from hunger, especially children, when we think of how much food is wasted every day in many parts of the world immersed in what I have often termed "the throwaway culture". Unfortunately, what is thrown away is not only food and dispensable objects, but often human beings themselves, who are discarded as "unnecessary". For example, it is frightful even to think there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day; children being used as soldiers, abused and killed in armed conflicts; and children being bought and sold in that terrible form of modern slavery which is human trafficking, which is a crime against humanity".
"Nor can we be unmoved by the tragedies which have forced so many people to flee from famine, violence and oppression, particularly in the Horn of Africa and in the Great Lakes Region. Many of these are living as fugitives or refugees in camps where they are no longer seen as persons but as nameless statistics. Others, in the hope of a better life, have undertaken perilous journeys which not infrequently end in tragedy. I think in particular of the many migrants from Latin America bound for the United States, but above all of all those from Africa and the Middle East who seek refuge in Europe". Here the Pope recalled his recent visit to Lamedusa, "Sadly, there is a general indifference in the face of these tragedies, which is a dramatic sign of the loss of that "sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters".
"Finally, I wish to mention another threat to peace, which arises from the greedy exploitation of environmental resources. Even if "nature is at our disposition", all too often we do not "respect it or consider it a gracious gift which we must care for and set at the service of our brothers and sisters, including future generations". Here too what is crucial is responsibility on the part of all in pursuing, in a spirit of fraternity, policies respectful of this earth which is our common home. I recall a popular saying: "God always forgives, we sometimes forgive, but when nature - creation - is mistreated, she never forgives!". We have also witnessed the devastating effects of several recent natural disasters. In particular, I would mention once more the numerous victims and the great devastation caused in the Philippines and other countries of Southeast Asia as a result of typhoon Haiyan".
"Pope Paul VI Francis concluded - noted that peace "is not simply the absence of warfare, based on a precarious balance of power; it is fashioned by efforts directed day after day towards the establishment of an order willed by God, with a more perfect justice among men and women".This is the spirit which guides the Church's activity throughout the world, carried out by priests, missionaries and lay faithful who with great dedication give freely of themselves, not least in a variety of educational, healthcare and social welfare institutions, in service to the poor, the sick, orphans and all those in need of help and comfort. On the basis of this "loving attentiveness",the Church cooperates with all institutions concerned for the good of individuals and communities. "