Peace is a constant longing in people’s hearts. It is so much desired and so much needed in our world, but at the same time it is so elusive. It is elusive because peace is not something that can be achieved once and for all. It needs continuous effort to cultivate and maintain. We experience this in our own small family circles. Constant effort is to be made, and by all, in order to have peace in the family. One time everything is serene and everyone is happy. Then all of a sudden, unexpectedly and many times unwilled, quarrels and misunderstandings happen. Once peace is broken, we start all over again to bring it about. If this is true in a small and intimate group as the family, how much more arduous is the work for peace in the world? Peace does not just happen. We all have to make conscious effort to make it happen.
There are many initiatives to make people conscious of the importance of peace among and within peoples. Back then in 1927, the World Day of Prayer for Peace was established, to be celebrated every first Friday of March of each year. The movement was initiated by Christian women in North America in the late 19th century.
The World Council of Churches calls churches and parishes since 2004 to observe the International Day of Prayer for Peace every September 21, coinciding with the United Nations-sponsored International Day of Peace on the same day.
In the Roman Catholic Church, since 1967, we have been celebrating the World Day of Peace every January 1, the start of the calendar year. On the very first day of the year, as we all look forward to a better future, the hope and striving for peace is set before us. On this day, besides the call to prayer, the Holy Father gives a message on what peace is and how we can achieve peace in the world. It is good to have a glimpse of the messages of Pope Francis since he became Pope by running through their titles:
2014: Fraternity, the Foundation and Pathway of Peace
2015: No longer slaves, but brothers and sisters.
2016: Overcome Indifference and Win Peace
2017: Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace
2018: Migrants and Refugees: men and women in search of peace
2019: Good Politics is at the Service of Peace
2020: Peace as a journey of hope: dialogue, reconciliation and ecological conversion.
These reflections make us more conscious of the multifaceted aspects of peace. It is not just a simple idea of non-violence, much less of having no war. These messages also widen our commitment to building a culture of peace in our communities, starting from our families and churches.
Peace should truly be one of our foremost efforts in the Philippines. We have the longest running communist insurgency problem in Asia, which has killed and maimed hundreds of thousands. It has caused a lot of animosity and hatred among the victims of fighting. When will our top brass and our government leaders learn that peace can never be achieved by force of arms? Now, there is a ray of hope that both sides will come to the negotiation table again. As the message of the Holy Father says, the journey of hope is done through dialogue and reconciliation. Ecological conversion is also a necessary ingredient. The environment is being destroyed because of greed and lack of respect of nature. Injustice and violence are also being done to the poor because of greed and lack of respect, not only of nature, but even of our own laws. Just think of the trumped up charges and the planting of “evidence” being done to farmer and labor leaders! Oh, how we need the Pope’s message for peace this year!
December 26, 2019