We are called to be ‘peacemakers’
In his message for the World Day for Peace (January 1st) entitled, “The Human Family, a Community of Peace,” Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that it is within a healthy family life that “we experience some of the fundamental elements of peace.” According to the Holy Father, these elements include “justice and love between brothers and sisters, the role of authority expressed by parents, loving concern for the members who are weaker because of youth, sickness or old age, mutual help in the necessities of life, readiness to accept others and, if necessary, to forgive them.”
This is why the family is the “first and indispensable teacher of peace.” The natural family founded on marriage between a man and a woman renders society an irreplaceable service for, as a “cradle of life and love,” the family is the “primary place of ‘humanization’ for the person and society.” Simply put: what is good for people and society is strongly connected to the good health of the family. Our courts, our schools and our social service agencies witness how problems within a family quickly become problems that affect all of society. Whatever weakens the family — the lack of a stable marriage, inadequate housing, unemployment or the lack of a living wage, etc. — makes peace in the national or international communion that much more fragile. Ruthless people often are so because they are rootless — products of broken or inexistent families: the stronger the family, the stronger the larger society. A more peaceful world depends not only on the diplomacy of politicians; it depends on the renewal of family life.
And so the Pope argues that “the social community, if it is to live in peace, is called to draw inspiration from the values on which the family community is based.” A family is more than just an aggregation of individuals; it is a community whose prosperity depends on the consent of all its members. “This is as true,” the Pope insists, “for local communities as it is for national communities; it is true for the international community itself, for the human family which dwells in that common house which is the earth.” As the world becomes more globalized, we cannot continue to tolerate the misery which condemns a significant part of the world’s human population to conditions unworthy of human life. To build a humanity truly at peace with itself, we need to do more than build bigger walls. We must recognize the unconditional value of each human being. As the Pope writes, “Honest and straightforward relationships need to be promoted between individual persons and between peoples, thus enabling everyone to cooperate on a just and equal footing.” Thus, both the natural family as well as the broader human family experience “authentic peace when no one lacks what is needed, and when the family patrimony — the fruit of the labor of some, the savings of others, and the active cooperation of all — is well-managed in a spirit of solidarity, without extravagance and without waste.”
We have begun a New Year — but the old problems remain. We are called to be “peacemakers” (cf Matthew 5: 9); but where do we begin? The Middle East and Iraq are still far from peace; conflicts in Africa continued unabated — and mostly unnoticed by the larger world; poverty continues to grow in many nations of the Southern hemisphere; the environment — the patrimony of future generations — continues to be threatened by our high degree of consumption of resources. Let there be peace on earth! Let it begin with us — and with our own families!