Peace cannot simply be an avoidance of conflict. It has to be deeply rooted in our hearts to become our common vocation, destroying all fear, seeking dialogue toward genuine peace.
PUBLISHED ONJan 2016
We have just stepped into a new year. Many of us, following tradition, have exchanged good wishes and expressed our best hopes for 2016. If I may guess, on top of our wish list is peace ad extra and ad intra, in the world and within our hearts. The increasing wave of violence around us, fuelled by fundamentalism and intolerance, has not only decimated many lives but it has also paralyzed many hearts, creating a deep sense of insecurity and mistrust leading to misjudgment and further isolation. This fear can bring us to a greater violence unless we sincerely seek and work for peace.
Fear and peace cannot coexist. In fear, we erect walls and barriers to protect ourselves, isolating us further from the plight of those who seek a new opportunity, a new chance, a new beacon of dignity, justice and peace. Fear often gives way to violence. It is violent to push back those fleeing from inhumane conditions. It is violent to exclude children and elderly from society. It is violent to ignore the plight of the homeless. It is violent to indulge in a superfluous way of living while denying what one lacks to survive and to live with dignity. We certainly cannot allow our fears to push us to this kind of violence and to further push us into our selfishness and indifference while ignoring the sufferings of others.
Metro Manila is believed to be the city with the highest rate of homelessness in the world. According to the list of “25 Cities With Extremely High Homeless Populations” posted by List25.com, 1.2 million children live on the streets throughout the Philippines. The UNCHR estimates that there are 100 million homeless people all over the world. To these numbers, we need to add those who have been forced to homelessness by natural calamities and violence. The streets have become the main environment not only for children but also for many who are perceived to be a burden to society – the elderly, the sick, the poor, etc.
Only genuine peace can help us overcome our prejudices, indifference and, therefore, all these forms of dissimulated violence which we perpetuate in our daily living. We need to rediscover our vocation to peace, live it and propel that peace with courage. Whatever our religion is, it can never be invoked to infringe violence. Authentic religion has to always be a source of peace. And no one can invoke God to justify violence.
The title of Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of Peace is “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace.” This peace cannot simply be an avoidance of conflict. It has to be deeply rooted in our hearts to become our common vocation, destroying all fear, seeking dialogue and collaboration as a means to build a genuine and sustainable peace where the excluded of society may have their dignified place; where the homeless may not only find a shelter but a place they can call home. In this perspective, conflicts will not make us rush to build walls but to understand our differences, heal our wounds and seek to build together a new humanity where peace is desired, felt and lived within our hearts. Consequently, it will flourish; it has to! I still believe in peace. I still pray for peace. I still work for peace. Do you?