Children must be protected, not exploited or abused.
Pope Francis has underscored the importance of this in his Message for the 52nd World Day of Peace, which is celebrated on January 1st, on the theme: ‘Good politics at the service of peace,’ which was presented today in the Vatican.
Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, speaking at the presentation, stressed the importance of affirming children’s human rights and futures, as he explored the Holy Father’s message.
Young people, the African cardinal said, “should not be deprived of their future by depriving them of an experience of peace, even now…”
“We should make peace happen,” Cardinal Turkson stressed, in all aspects of life, at home, community, work, and nations.
The message reflected on children currently living in areas of conflict, and all those who work to protect their lives and defend their rights, and lamented “that one out of every six children in our world is affected by the violence of war or its effects, even when they are not enrolled as child soldiers or held hostage by armed groups.”
“The witness given by those who work to defend them and their dignity is most precious for the future of humanity.”
The Pope’s message, which places a great emphasis on the need to protect human rights, begins focusing on “Good politics at the service of peace”
“Bringing peace is central to the mission of Christ’s disciples. That peace is offered to all those men and women who long for peace amid the tragedies and violence that mark human history.”
“The ‘house’ of which Jesus speaks is every family, community, country and continent, in all their diversity and history. It is first and foremost each individual person, without distinction or discrimination,” and also our ‘common home.'”
Next addressed was the challenge of good politics, pointing out that peace “is like a delicate flower struggling to blossom on the stony ground of violence.”
When political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, Francis noted, it can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction, and reminds: “Jesus tells us that, “if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35).
“Political office and political responsibility thus constantly challenge those called to the service of their country to make every effort to protect those who live there and to create the conditions for a worthy and just future. If exercised with basic respect for the life, freedom and dignity of people, political life can indeed become an outstanding form of charity.”
Next, “Charity and human virtues: the basis of politics at the service of human rights and peace,” was explored, recalling Pope Benedict XVI’s words: “Man’s earthly activity, when inspired and sustained by charity, contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family.”
The Pope reminded the importance of voting, noting that “Every election and re-election, and every stage of public life, is an opportunity to return to the original points of reference that inspire justice and law.”
“One thing is certain,” the Pontiff affirmed, “good politics is at the service of peace. It respects and promotes fundamental human rights, which are at the same time mutual obligations, enabling a bond of trust and gratitude to be forged between present and future generations.”
Next, the message explored political vices, noting many are the fault of personal incompetence or to flaws in the system and its institutions. Clearly, it said, these vices detract from the credibility of political life overall.
The Pope reflected on the various forms of corruption: “the misappropriation of public resources, the exploitation of individuals, the denial of rights, the flouting of community rules, dishonest gain, the justification of power by force or the arbitrary appeal to raison d’état and the refusal to relinquish power.” In addition, he decried “xenophobia, racism, lack of concern for the natural environment, the plundering of natural resources for the sake of quick profit and contempt for those forced into exile.”
In the next section, Francis examined how good politics promotes the participation of the young and trust in others.
“When politics concretely fosters the talents of young people and their aspirations, peace grows in their outlook and on their faces,” he said, adding: “It becomes a confident assurance that says, ‘I trust you and with you I believe’ that we can all work together for the common good.”
“Politics is at the service of peace if it finds expression in the recognition of the gifts and abilities of each individual.”
Today more than ever, Pope Francis urged, our societies need “artisans of peace” who can be messengers and authentic witnesses of God the Father, who wills the good and the happiness of the human family.
The sixth section was on: “No to war and to the strategy of fear,” where the Successor of Peter reminded: “peace can never be reduced solely to a balance between power and fear.”
“To threaten others,” he decried, “is to lower them to the status of objects and to deny their dignity. This is why we state once more that an escalation of intimidation, and the uncontrolled proliferation of arms, is contrary to morality and the search for true peace.”
“Terror exerted over those who are most vulnerable contributes to the exile of entire populations who seek a place of peace. Political addresses that tend to blame every evil on migrants and to deprive the poor of hope are unacceptable.”
Rather, he continued, there is a need to reaffirm that peace is based on respect for each person…
“Our thoughts turn in a particular way to all those children currently living in areas of conflict, and to all those who work to protect their lives and defend their rights,” lamenting that one out of every six children in our world is affected by the violence of war or its effects, even when they are not enrolled as child soldiers or held hostage by armed groups.”
“The witness given by those who work to defend them and their dignity is most precious for the future of humanity.
The last section presented “A great project of peace.”
Recalling we are celebrating the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in the wake of the Second World War, we ought to remember the observation of Pope John XXIII: ‘Man’s awareness of his rights must inevitably lead him to the recognition of his duties…The possession of rights also involves their recognition and respect by others.’”
“Peace, in effect, is the fruit of a great political project grounded in the mutual responsibility and interdependence of human beings.” But, he said, “it is also a challenge that demands to be taken up ever anew.”
“It entails a conversion of heart and soul; it is both interior and communal; and it has three inseparable aspects”: peace with oneself, peace with others and peace with creation.
Concluding, Pope Francis recommends: “The politics of peace, conscious of and deeply concerned for every situation of human vulnerability can always draw inspiration from the Magnificat, the hymn that Mary, the Mother of Christ the Savior and Queen of Peace, sang in the name of all mankind.”
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