Pope stresses the importance of dialogue, education and work to build lasting peace
Military spending is up, “beyond the levels at the end of the Cold War and they seem certain to grow exorbitantly.” At the same, spending in education is down across the world, treated as mere “investment”. For the pontiff, “Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfilment.” Political leaders are “called to play an active role by promoting a fair balance between economic freedom and social justice.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In his message for the 55th World Day of Peace on 1 January, Pope Francis focused on Dialogue Between Generations, Education and Work: Tools for Building Lasting Peace.
For the pontiff, education is crucial for the “architecture” of peace since it is a factor of freedom, responsibility and development as to way to achieve a global educational compact. By the same token, providing people with dignified work can enable everyone to contribute to a better and more beautiful world. Such elements are “indispensable” to achieve “a social covenant, without which every project of peace turns out to be insubstantial.”
This comes at a time when “the deafening noise of war and conflict is intensifying. While diseases of pandemic proportions are spreading, the effects of climate change and environmental degradation are worsening, the tragedy of hunger and thirst is increasing, and an economic model based on individualism rather than on solidary sharing continues to prevail.”
In his message, Frances says that dialogue between generations is the first “path” towards building peace. He notes that “Although technological and economic development has tended to create a divide between generations, our current crises show the urgent need for an intergenerational partnership. Young people need the wisdom and experience of the elderly, while those who are older need the support, affection, creativity and dynamism of the young.”
“The global crisis we are experiencing makes it clear that encounter and dialogue between generations should be the driving force behind a healthy politics, that is not content to manage the present ‘with piecemeal solutions or quick fixes’, but views itself as an outstanding form of love for others, in the search for shared and sustainable projects for the future.”
We must “revisit the past and look to the future.” By revisiting the past, we can “learn from history and heal old wounds that at times still trouble us.” By looking “to the future”, we can “nourish our enthusiasm, cause dreams to emerge, awaken prophecies and enable hope to blossom.”
Concern for the environment is another crucial point. “We need only think of care for our common home. The environment, in fact, ‘is on loan to each generation, which must then hand it on to the next’. We ought to esteem and encourage all those young people who work for a more just world, one that is careful to safeguard the creation entrusted to our stewardship. They go about this with restlessness, enthusiasm and most of all a sense of responsibility before the urgent change of direction required by the challenges emerging from the present ethical and socio-environmental crisis.”
The second “path” is education. The message notes that funding for education and training has dropped, “seen more as expenditures than investments” while “Military expenditures, on the other hand, have increased beyond the levels at the end of the Cold War and they seem certain to grow exorbitantly.”
Teaching and education constitute “primary means of promoting integral human development”. For this reason, according to Francis, it is "high time" to develop economic policies that shift funding from weapons to education.
Governments must “develop economic policies aimed at inverting the proportion of public funds spent on education and on weaponry. The pursuit of a genuine process of international disarmament can only prove beneficial for the development of peoples and nations, freeing up financial resources better used for health care, schools, infrastructure, care of the land and so forth.
“It is my hope that investment in education will also be accompanied by greater efforts to promote the culture of care, which, in the face of social divisions and unresponsive institutions, could become a common language working to break down barriers and build bridges.
“A country flourishes when constructive dialogue occurs between its many rich cultural components [. . .]. It is essential, then, to forge a new cultural paradigm through ‘a global pact on education for and with future generations, one that commits families, communities, schools, universities, institutions, religions, governments and the entire human family to the training of mature men and women.’”
“A compact that can promote education in integral ecology, according to a cultural model of peace, development and sustainability centred on fraternity and the covenant between human beings and the environment.
“By investing in the education and training of younger generations, we can help them – through a focused programme of formation – to take their rightful place in the labour market.”
The third path is labour, defined as “an indispensable factor in building and keeping peace” since it “enables us to learn to make our contribution towards a more habitable and beautiful world.”
Francis notes that the pandemic has had a negative impact on labour markets. “Millions of economic and productive activities have failed; short-term workers are increasingly vulnerable; many of those who provide essential services have an even lower public and political profile; and in many cases, distance teaching has led to a deficit in learning and delays in completing programmes of study. Furthermore, young people entering the job market and recently unemployed adults presently face bleak prospects.”
What is more, “the impact of the crisis on the informal economy, which often involves migrant workers, has been devastating.” Many of them are forced to live in "highly precarious" conditions, like the two-thirds of humanity that have little or no social safety net. Hence, “The only answer to this is an expansion of dignified employment opportunities.
“Labour, in fact, is the foundation on which to build justice and solidarity in every community. For this reason,” Francis cited Laudato si’: “[O]ur aim should not be ‘that technological progress increasingly replace human work, for this would be detrimental to humanity. Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfilment.’”
“We need to combine our ideas and efforts in order to create the solutions and conditions that can provide everyone of working age with the opportunity, through their work, to contribute to the lives of their families and of society as a whole.
“It is more urgent than ever to promote, throughout our world, decent and dignified working conditions, oriented to the common good and to the safeguarding of creation. The freedom of entrepreneurial initiatives needs to be ensured and supported; at the same time, efforts must be made to encourage a renewed sense of social responsibility, so that profit will not be the sole guiding criterion.
“In light of this, there is a need to promote, welcome and support initiatives that, on all levels, urge companies to respect the fundamental human rights of workers, raising awareness not only on the part of institutions, but also among consumers, civil society and entrepreneurial entities. As the latter become more and more conscious of their role in society, the more they will become places where human dignity is respected. In this way, they will contribute to building peace. Here, politics is called to play an active role by promoting a fair balance between economic freedom and social justice. All who work in this field, starting with Catholic workers and entrepreneurs, can find sure guidelines in the Church’s social doctrine.”
The message ends with an appeal “To government leaders and to all those charged with political and social responsibilities, to priests and pastoral workers, and to all men and women of good will” to “walk together with courage and creativity on the path of intergenerational dialogue, education, and work. May more and more men and women strive daily, with quiet humility and courage, to be artisans of peace. And may they be ever inspired and accompanied by the blessings of the God of peace!” (FP)