March 11March 11 Editorial: Peacemaking in the New Year (January 12, 2024)

January 12, 2024


Peacemaking in the New Year

Each new year, we give expression to our desire for peace. And yet, as the days and weeks and months progress, every year gives witness to the absence of peace—in our hearts, in families and communities, and among warring nations of the world. Sadly, there is very little peace.

Instead, there is jealousy, hatred, enmity, resistance, intolerance and all-out war. Surely there is something we can do to break the vicious cycle of violence and aggression that we must contend with each new year in spite of our sincere longing for peace.

Jan. 1 is observed publicly as the World Day of Peace, and every year since 1967 the pope, beginning with Pope St. Paul VI, has issued a special message inviting everyone to reflect on the important work of building peace.

Last year, Pope Francis began his World Day of Peace message saying:

We cannot continue to focus simply on preserving ourselves; rather, the time has come for all of us to endeavor to heal our society and our planet, to lay the foundations for a more just and peaceful world, and to commit ourselves seriously to pursuing a good that is truly common.

The Holy Father emphasizes that all of us are responsible for laying the foundations for peace. Indeed, all of us are responsible for peacemaking. As the popular song says, “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.” But how do we “begin with me?” How do ordinary people like us contribute to the vitally important, but very complex, work of building peace?

Here are five simple steps that are suggested as a roadmap for peacemaking. None of these alone is profound, but all five taken together can be significant building blocks in the architecture of peacemaking.

First, we should all pray for peace. Our prayer should be fervent, frequent and attentive to God’s word. If peace is really important to us, we should take the time to pray for it—entrusting to our Lord the things that prevent us from being at peace with one another.

Secondly, we should make sure that we are fully informed about the political, economic, social and moral issues that are at stake in conflicts among individuals and groups. We should not rely solely on familiar sources but should try to get fresh, even opposing, points of view so that we can fully understand those with whom we disagree and, where appropriate, we should be willing to adjust our positions.

Thirdly, we should be proactive in urging elected officials (and other influential people in the media, in business, in the Church and in society) to make whatever changes are necessary to achieve peaceful solutions to serious problems. We should not be quiet or passive when it comes to holding our leaders accountable for creating opportunities for peace with justice and mercy.

Fourth, we must practice what we preach. There will be no lasting peace in our world until each of us learns to set aside our differences—large and small—and to forgive one another for the real or perceived injuries we have suffered. Unless each of us learns repeatedly to “let go” of resentments and grievances, we will never experience true peace.

Finally, we should ask our Blessed Mother Mary, Queen of Peace, to intercede for us—and all her children the world over—and to help us build a better world. Mary is the ultimate peacemaker. She lived the Beatitudes in all humility and simplicity, and she can show us the way to build peace in her Son’s name. Mary has repeatedly asked us to pray the rosary in order to promote peace in our world. If everyone did as Mary asked, what a difference it would make!

Unfortunately, there are no simple solutions to problems that are fundamental to the human condition, but perhaps these five steps, which are simple-but-not-easy, can serve as a roadmap for peacemaking throughout the new year.

We are not so naïve that we think taking these steps will affect an immediate ceasefire in the Holy Land, Ukraine or other regions of the world. And yet, we do believe in miracles. Why not give these steps a try?

As Pope Francis observed in his 2024 World Day of Peace message, “May Christian believers, followers of various religions and men and women of good will work together in harmony to hand on to future generations a world of greater solidarity, justice and peace.”

—Daniel Conway

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