Peacemakers called to love, defend, promote life

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

True peacemakers defend human life at every stage of its existence and promote the common good through their economic policies and activities, Pope Benedict XVI said.
In his annual message for the World Day of Peace Jan. 1, Pope Benedict said attacks on human dignity and human rights –– from abortion and euthanasia to limits on religious freedom, and from religious fanaticism to “unregulated financial capitalism” –– undermine efforts to bring peace to the world.
The pope’s message was released Dec. 14 at a Vatican news conference led by Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
While reiterating Catholic teaching about the sacredness of every human life and about the dangers of an unregulated free-market economy, Pope Benedict’s message explained those teachings as logical, natural principles needed for a life marked by dignity and peaceful coexistence.
In fact, he said, some people may not even realize they are promoting a “false peace” when they urge the legislative adoption of “false rights or freedoms,” employing “the clever use of ambiguous expressions aimed at promoting a supposed right to abortion and euthanasia.”
True peacemakers, the pope said, “are those who love, defend and promote human life in all its dimensions.”
“Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life,” he said.
Pope Benedict also said peacemakers need to take a new look at the importance of the traditional family in handing on the values that promote peace and in resolving problems and tensions that undermine peace.
“The family is one of the indispensable social subjects for the achievement of a culture of peace,” he said.
Cardinal Turkson, presenting the message, said Pope Benedict was being very concrete in helping people understand what it takes to promote true peace. “He calls attention to the most urgent problems, the correct vision of matrimony, the right to conscience objection, religious freedom as ‘freedom to’ (contribute to society), the question of work and unemployment, the food crisis, the financial crisis and the role of the family in education.”
As part of Pope Benedict’s discussion about religious freedom, he insisted governments recognize and uphold “the right to invoke the principle of conscientious objection in the face of laws or government measures that offend against human dignity, such as abortion and euthanasia.”
“Sadly,” he said, “even in countries of long-standing Christian tradition, instances of religious intolerance are becoming more numerous, especially in relation to Christianity and those who simply wear identifying signs of their religion.”
In all people of good will, the pope said, the New Year brings hope for a better and more peaceful world.
Yet, he said, “it is alarming to see hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset, which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism.”
Pope Benedict said true peacemakers must work to counter the increasingly popular notion that “economic growth should be pursued even to the detriment of the state’s social responsibilities.”
The right to have a steady job is “one of the social rights and duties most under threat today,” he said. With an emphasis on promoting free markets, the right and need to work is too often treated simply as a market variable.
“In this regard, I would reaffirm that human dignity and economic, social and political factors demand that we continue to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone,” he wrote.
As the global economic crisis continues to be felt around the world, he said, people need to “promote life by fostering human creativity in order to draw from the crisis itself an opportunity for discernment and for a new economic model.”
The current economic model is a selfish, individualistic approach, the pope said. “In economic activity, peacemakers are those who establish bonds of fairness and reciprocity with their colleagues, workers, clients and consumers.” “The creation of ethical structures for currency, financial and commercial markets is also fundamental and indispensable,” Pope Benedict wrote. “These must be stabilized and better coordinated and controlled so as not to prove harmful to the very poor.”
Pope Benedict said peacemakers must pay attention to “the food crisis, which is graver than the financial crisis” today. According to the U.N.’s World Food Program, some 870 million people in the world are “chronically hungry,” and hunger kills more people each year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
“The issue of food security is once more central to the international political agenda as a result of interrelated crises, including sudden shifts in the price of basic foodstuffs, irresponsible behavior by some economic actors and insufficient control on the part of governments and the international community,” the pope said.
Peace isn’t simply a feeling or a passive awareness that things are going well, the pope said. Peace implies “activity, compassion, solidarity, courage and perseverance.”
At the end of the message, which the Vatican sends to heads of state around the world, Pope Benedict prayed that God would enlighten them “so that, besides caring for the proper material welfare of their peoples, they may secure for them the precious gift of peace, break down the walls which divide them, strengthen the bonds of mutual love, grow in understanding, and pardon those who have done them wrong.”