12/24/2010, 00.00
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The peace of Christmas and freedom of religion

by Bernardo Cervellera
The birth of the Savior urges the world to put God and mankind in first place, not politics, money, or ideology. Where this is not the case, there are flickering signs of violence and war. The pope's proposal for a new culture of coexistence and respect for religious freedom.

Rome (AsiaNews) - "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests" the angels’ cry of jubilation on Christmas Eve is in sharp contrast to the news and events that we report here and around the world this year.

The hymn of peace of the night when God becomes child, seems overwhelmed by ominous threats, winds of war and violence that are bloodying the Asian continent: instability and acts of terrorism in Iraq (with the massacre of many Christians) tell us that peace and security for that land, years after ouster of Saddam Hussein, are far from becoming a reality. Widespread tensions in Afghanistan and also Pakistan show no signs of abating, not even with the help of weapons, aid, dialogue, elections. The peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, so dear to us Christians and deeply desired by Barack Obama is slowly turning into the opposite, with the ever more violent spread of the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

Further to the east, for possession of a handful of semi-deserted islands - perhaps with a seabed rich in oil deposits – China ha clashed with Vietnam and the Philippines, and further east still, with Japan.

The new dictatorial leadership of North Korea announces its presence in the Yellow Sea by bombing innocent civilians and military bases in a showdown that raises the risk of another world war.

Then if we turn our gaze to the West, we perceive a battle for survival of countries in bankruptcy and a currencies war between the U.S. and China that impoverishes both nations and condemns the two populations to a difficult economic existence, with the risk of unrest within the their own countries.

The world risks self- degradation and even self- destruction because it does not listen to the words of the Christmas hymn. It says, "Peace on earth to those on whom His favor rests", the men that God loved so much that He cast onto the earth His most precious possession, His Son. But wars are always on the horizon because instead of the "primacy of man", "the primacy of politics", of the "economy", or of "ideology" is given pride of place. In short, the primacy of a "power" where man claims to be God and grabs, accumulates, steals, oppresses, chains, kills other men.

In his encyclical, Caritas in veritate, Benedict XVI amply demonstrated that the world needs to revise the pillars upon which the coexistence of peoples, economics, ecology, labour, culture rest, making the truth and human dignity the foundations for a new, more comprehensive material and spiritual development.

In particular, he pointed out that the threshold of this new beginning is respect for religious freedom (29). This right, the litmus test for all other freedoms, is the central theme of the message for the next World Day of Peace 2011: "Freedom of religion, path to peace”. Not by chance, the very countries listed at the beginning, where signs of wars and tensions flicker, are also places where the religious man is humiliated, and where freedom of conscience and expression is severely limited.

But is not even the West is saved: here, where God is mocked and a happy and empty materialism is the preferred choice, many neuroses and frustrations emerge, which render a civil if difficult. "A prosperous society – says the pope in his encyclical - highly developed in material terms but weighing heavily on the soul, is not of itself conducive to authentic development." (n. 76).

Working for religious freedom, giving space in society to the truth about man and God, is the path of peace. Merry Christmas.

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