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Empathy and Peace

Deeply concerned about a “globalization of indifference,” Pope Francis, in his 2016 World Day of Peace message entitled “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace,” warns that “the first kind of indifference in human society is indifference to God, which then leads to indifference to one’s neighbor and to the environment.”

Deeply concerned about a “globalization of indifference,” Pope Francis, in his 2016 World Day of Peace message entitled “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace,” warns that “the first kind of indifference in human society is indifference to God, which then leads to indifference to one’s neighbor and to the environment.”

Pope Francis further explains that indifference often “shows itself in lack of concern for what is happening around us, especially if it does not touch us directly.”

He writes: “Some people prefer not to ask questions or seek answers; they lead lives of comfort, deaf to the cry of those who suffer. Almost imperceptibly, we grow incapable of feeling compassion for others and for their problems; we have no interest in caring for them, as if their troubles were their own responsibility, and none of our business.”

To help reverse this indifference, the Holy Father appeals to national leaders for concrete gestures in the creation of “dignified jobs to combat the social plague of unemployment. … Special attention needs to be given to women – who, unfortunately, still encounter discrimination in the workplace – and to some categories of workers whose conditions are precarious or dangerous, and whose pay is not commensurate to the importance of their social mission.”

A very good way to respond to Pope Francis’ concerns here would be to visit the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights (http://www.globallabourrights.org/) to learn about what you can do to help correct many of these injustices.

Regarding migrants, Pope Francis asks that legislation on migration “reflect a readiness to welcome migrants and to facilitate their integration.”

With emergency crises in places such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Central America and parts of Africa – causing millions of desperate people to seek safety and shelter in foreign lands – the Pope’s call for welcome and integration should inspire those of us who live in safety and comfort to urge our government – with solid vetting processes in place – to generously offer hospitality to our suffering brothers and sisters.

On prison reform, Francis reminds societies that rehabilitation of criminal offenders needs to be an essential goal of penal systems.

Here it would be useful to recall that St. Thomas Aquinas taught that the purpose of punishing wrongdoers should never be done to inflict suffering for its own sake. Rather, a compassionate community should always strive to help prisoners acknowledge accountability for their actions, accept correction, and seek redemption.

Surely mindful of this Catholic teaching, the Holy Father compassionately states: “I would like once more to appeal to governmental authorities to abolish the death penalty where it is still in force.”

The Pope added this threefold appeal to the leaders of nations: “to refrain from drawing other peoples into conflicts or wars which destroy not only their material, cultural and social legacy, but also – and in the long term – their moral and spiritual integrity; to forgive or manage, in a sustainable way, the international debt of the poorer nations; and to adopt policies of cooperation which, instead of bowing before the dictatorship of certain ideologies, will respect the values of local populations and, in any case, not prove detrimental to the fundamental and inalienable right to life of the unborn.”

With an active commitment to expanding non-violent conflict resolution strategies throughout the world, an end to the arms trade, multilateral disarmament, deep cuts in military spending, abolishing nuclear weapons, fair trade practices, significant increases in domestic and foreign poverty-focused spending, cancelling the remaining “debt” of poor nations (which, in many cases, have already paid back the original amount borrowed), and ensuring that organizations, which provide and/or promote abortion, do not receive federal funding, leaders of nations could demonstrate concrete ways of honoring Pope Francis’ appeal for overcoming indifference and winning peace.

While thanking and encouraging people of all ages who undertake works of solidarity and who generously help those in need – near and far – Pope Francis offers the wonderful consolation of Jesus: that their hunger and thirst for justice will be satisfied, their mercy will lead them to find mercy and, as peacemakers, they will be called children of God (Mt 5:6-9).


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