For the Day:

Overcome Indifference and Win Peace

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - JANUARY 29: Pope Francis holds his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square on January 29, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. After his appearance on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, today Pontiff was also found to be represented in a graffiti in Rome that portrays him in a superhero vest. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

In his Message for the 49th World Day of Peace on 1 Jan. Pope Francis says Peace is the fruit of a culture of solidarity, mercy and compassion; and Peace is the sign of the
Jubilee of Mercy.

God is not indifferent! God cares about mankind! God does not abandon us! At the beginning of the New Year, I would like to share not only this profound conviction but also my cordial good wishes for prosperity, peace and the fulfilment of the hopes of every man and every woman, every family, people and nation throughout the world, including all Heads of State and Government and all religious leaders. We continue to trust that 2016 will see us all firmly and confidently engaged, on different levels, in the pursuit of justice and peace. Peace is both God’s gift and a human achievement. As a gift of God, it is entrusted to all men and women, who are called to attain it.

Maintaining our reasons for hope
Sadly, war and terrorism, accompanied by kidnapping, ethnic or religious persecution and the misuse of power, marked the past year from start to finish. In many parts of the world, these have became so common as to constitute a real “third world war fought piecemeal”. Yet some events of the year now ending inspire me, in looking ahead to the New Year …

Here I would mention the efforts to bring world leaders together at COP21…, the Addis Ababa Summit for funding sustainable development worldwide and the adoption of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, aimed at ensuring a more dignified standard of living for all the world’s peoples.

For the Church, 2015 was a special year, since it marked the fiftieth anniversary of two documents of the Second Vatican Council which eloquently expressed her sense of solidarity with the world. The two documents, Nostra Aetate and Gaudium et Spes, are emblematic of the new relationship of dialogue, solidarity and accompaniment which the Church sought to awaken within the human family…

Along these same lines, with the present Jubilee of Mercy I want to invite the Church to pray and work so that every Christian will have a humble and compassionate heart, one capable of proclaiming and witnessing to mercy. It is my hope that all of us will learn to “forgive and give”, to become more open “to those living on the outermost fringes of society – fringes which modern society itself creates”, and to refuse to fall into “a humiliating indifference or a monotonous routine which prevents us from discovering what is new! Let us ward off destructive cynicism!”… As we approach a new year, I would ask everyone to take stock of this reality, in order to overcome indifference and to win peace.

Kinds of indifference
Clearly, indifference is not something new… now there is a certain “globalisation of indifference.” There is indifference to God, which then leads to indifference to one’s neighbour and to the environment. This is one of the grave consequences of a false humanism and practical materialism allied to relativism and nihilism. We have come to think that we are the source and creator of ourselves, our lives and society. We feel self-sufficient, prepared not only to find a substitute for God but to do completely without him…

Indifference to our neighbour shows itself in different ways… Sadly, it must be said that today’s information explosion does not of itself lead to an increased concern for other people’s problems, which demands openness and a sense of solidarity. Indeed, the information glut can numb people’s sensibilities and to some degree downplay the gravity of the problems.

Indifference shows itself in lack of concern for what is happening around us, especially if it does not touch us directly. 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. “When we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others (something God the Father never does): we are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure… Our heart grows cold. As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off”…

Peace threatened by indifference
…Indifference and lack of commitment constitute a grave dereliction of the duty whereby each of us must work in accordance with our abilities and our role in society for the promotion of the common good, and in particular for peace, which is one of mankind’s most precious goods.

On the institutional level, indifference to others and to their dignity, their fundamental rights and their freedom, when it is part of a culture shaped by the pursuit of profit and hedonism, can foster and even justify actions and policies which ultimately represent threats to peace…When people witness the denial of their elementary rights, such as the right to food, water, health care or employment, they are tempted to obtain them by force.

Moreover, indifference to the natural environment… ends up creating new forms of poverty and new situations of injustice, often with dire consequences for security and peace…

Indifference to Mercy
One year ago, in my Message for the 2015 World Day of Peace, with the motto “No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters”, I evoked the first biblical icon of human brotherhood, that of Cain and Abel…
Cain said he did not know what had happened to his brother… was indifferent to his brother, despite their common origin…God, however, is not indifferent. Abel’s blood had immense value in His eyes, and He asked Cain to give an account of it. At the origin of the human race, God shows Himself to be involved in man’s destiny… He sees, hears, knows, comes down and delivers…

In the same way, in Jesus His Son, God has come down among us. He took flesh and showed His solidarity with humanity in all things but sin…He was concerned not only for men and women, but also for the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, plants and trees, all things great and small… He touched people’s lives, He spoke to them, helped them and showed kindness to those in need. Not only this, but He felt strong emotions and He wept. And He worked to put an end to suffering, sorrow, misery and death.

Jesus taught us to be merciful like our heavenly Father. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, He condemned those who fail to help others in need, those who “pass by on the other side”. By this example, He taught His listeners, and His disciples in particular, to stop and to help alleviate the sufferings of this world and the pain of our brothers and sisters, using whatever means are at hand, beginning with our own time, however busy we may be…
Mercy is the heart of God. It must also be the heart of the members of the one great family of his children: a heart which beats all the more strongly wherever human dignity – as a reflection of the face of God in his creatures – is in play. Jesus tells us that love for others – foreigners, the sick, prisoners, the homeless, even our enemies – is the yardstick by which God will judge our actions. Our eternal destiny depends on this.

This then is why “it is absolutely essential for the Church and for the credibility of her message that she herself live and testify to mercy. Her language and her gestures must transmit mercy, so as to touch the hearts of all people and inspire them once more to find the road that leads to the Father…

We too, then, are called to make compassion, love, mercy and solidarity a true way of life, a rule of conduct in our relationships with one another. This requires the conversion of our hearts…

A culture of solidarity and mercy
Solidarity, as a moral virtue and social attitude born of personal conversion, calls for commitment on the part of those responsible for education and formation. Families are the first place where the values of love and fraternity, togetherness and sharing, concern and care for others are lived out and handed on. They are also the privileged milieu for transmitting the faith, beginning with those first simple gestures of devotion which mothers teach their children.

Teachers, who have the challenging task of training children and youth in schools or other settings, should be conscious that their responsibility extends also to the moral, spiritual and social aspects of life. The values of freedom, mutual respect and solidarity can be handed on from a tender age.

Communicators also have a responsibility for education and formation, especially nowadays, when the means of information and communication are so widespread. Their duty is first and foremost to serve the truth, and not particular interests. For the media “not only inform but also form the minds of their audiences, and so they can make a significant contribution to the education of young people. It is important never to forget that the connection between education and communication is extremely close: education takes place through communication, which influences, for better or worse, the formation of the person.”

Peace, the fruit of a culture of solidarity, mercy
There are many non-governmental and charitable organisations, both within and outside the Church, whose members, amidst epidemics, disasters and armed conflicts, brave difficulties and dangers in caring for the injured and sick, and in burying the dead. I would also mention those individuals and associations which assist migrants who cross deserts and seas in search of a better life. These efforts are spiritual and corporal works of mercy on which we will be judged at the end of our lives.

I think also of the journalists and photographers who shape public opinion on difficult situations which trouble our consciences, and all those devoted to the defence of human rights, especially the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, indigenous peoples, women and children, and the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. Among them are also many priests and missionaries who, as good pastors, remain at the side of their flock and support them, heedless of danger and hardship, especially during armed conflicts.

How many families, amid occupational and social difficulties, make great sacrifices to provide their children with a “counter-cultural” education in the values of solidarity, compassion and fraternity! …

Peace and Jubilee of Mercy
In the spirit of the Jubilee of Mercy, all of us are called to realise how indifference can manifest itself in our lives and to work concretely to improve the world around us, beginning with our families, neighbours and places of employment. Civil society is likewise called to make specific and courageous gestures of concern for their most vulnerable members, such as prisoners, migrants, the unemployed and the infirm… I would like once more to appeal to governmental authorities to abolish the death penalty where it is still in force, and to consider the possibility of an amnesty.

With regard to migrants, I would ask that legislation on migration be reviewed… Special concern should be paid to the conditions for legal residency, since having to live clandestinely can lead to criminal behaviour.
In this Jubilee Year, I would also appeal to national leaders for concrete gestures in favour of our brothers and sisters who suffer from the lack of labour, land and lodging. … Unemployment takes a heavy toll on people’s sense of dignity and hope, and can only be partially compensated for by welfare benefits…
Finally, I express my hope that effective steps will be taken to improve the living conditions of the sick by ensuring that all have access to medical treatment and pharmaceuticals essential for life, as well as the possibility of home care.

With this in mind, I would like to make a 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…