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Two Challenges for 2018

Both climate change and the nuclear threat are, in my view, the most pressing challenges for this year and for generations to come as well.

As the New Year commences it is customary to wish peace and fulfillment of personal projects for the year just started. I recall in my home country astrologers, live on TV, making the most astounding forecasts at the beginning of each year, the majority of which never materialize. 

In my opinion, we do not need such types of predictions.  The signs that we must heed are reality-based. There are two signs I would like to highlight for 2018.  

The first one is climate change. Recently, 15,000 researches have written a ‘letter to humanity’ warning of environmental collapse if the actual downward path is not overturned. 

Climate change is contributing to storms, droughts and health hazards around the world, affecting primarily our most vulnerable brothers and sisters. Scientists are also forecasting more frequent and intense earthquakes for this year.  

As people of faith, we believe, however, that there is hope provided we commit ourselves to change our lifestyles and act together. This is the cry to humanity of Laudato Si’ of Pope Francis, the encyclical letter on the ecological crisis and climate change that shows a path forward consisting of prayer, unity and action. 

The second sign is the prospect of war between the U.S. and North Korea which seems more realistic than ever. A nuclear conflict would cause a cataclysm with unimaginable tragic costs, leading to the death of one million people only in the first day, according to military analysts. 

It seems humanity has forgotten the terrible lessons from the past, mainly the devastating effects of the atomic bombs dropped over Nagasaki and Hiroshima at the end of World War II. 

Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times columnist, writing on whether we are heading for war, says, “I fear the answer may be yes.” He advocates diplomatic talks as a way out to the actual standoff. “So let’s try talking, rather than risk the first exchange of nuclear weapons in the history of our planet.”

Both climate change and the nuclear threat are, in my view, the most pressing challenges for this year and for generations to come as well. Responsible authorities and religious leaders have a role to play in facing up to these hazards. They have the moral duty to guide their citizens and followers in civic participation and in practicing the values of tolerance, respect for the environment, and nonviolence.  

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