COLUMN: JOHN PAUL II ON PEACE

MANILA, January 3, 2004 (STAR) AT 3:00 A.M. By James B. Reuter, S.J. - His Holiness John Paul II wrote a message to celebrate the World Day of Peace on January 1, 2004. Here are excerpts from that message:

"My words are addressed to you, the Leaders of the nations, who have the duty of promoting peace!

"To you, Jurists, committed to tracing paths to peaceful agreement, preparing conventions and treaties which strengthen international legality!

"To you, Teachers of the young, who on all continents work tirelessly to form consciences in the ways of understanding and dialogue!

"And to you too, men and women tempted to turn to the unacceptable means of terrorism and thus compromise at its root the very cause for which you are fighting!

"All of you, hear the humble appeal of the Successor of Peter who cries out: today too, at the beginning of the New Year 2004, peace remains possible. And if peace is possible, it is also a duty!

"This year I feel bound to invite all men and women, on every continent, to celebrate a new World Day of Peace. Humanity needs now more than ever to rediscover the path of concord, overwhelmed as it is by selfishness and hatred, by the thirst for power and the lust for vengeance.

"We Christians see the commitment to peace as the very heart of our religion. To proclaim peace is to announce Christ who is ‘our peace’; it is to announce his Gospel, which is a ‘Gospel of peace’; it is to call all people to the beatitude of being ‘peacemakers’.

"In the face of the tragedies which continue to afflict humanity, men and women are tempted to yield to fatalism, as if peace were an unattainable ideal.

"Peace and international law are closely linked to each other: law favours peace. . . . .Accords freely signed must be honoured. . . . . There is a temptation to appeal to the law of force rather than to the force of law. One of these moments was surely the drama which humanity experienced during the Second World War: an abys of violence, destruction and death unlike anything previously known.

"The system developed with the United Nations Charter was meant ‘to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind. . . . . . In the decades which followed, however, the division of the international community into opposing blocs, the cold war in one part of the world, the outbreak of violent conflicts in other areas and the phenomenon of terrorism produced a growing break in world peace.

"The United Nations Organization needs to rise more and more above the cold status of an administrative institution and to become a moral centre where all the nations of the world feel at home and develop a shared awareness of being a family of nations.

"Today conflict frequently involves agents which are not themselves States but rather entities derived from the collapse of States, or connected to independence movements, or linked to trained criminal organizations.

"The scourge of terrorism has become more virulent in recent years and has produced brutal massacres which have in turn put even greater obstacles in the way of dialogue and negotiation, increasing tensions and aggravating problems, especially in the Middle East.

"The fight against terrorism cannot be limited solely to repressive and punitive operations. It is essential that the use of force, even when necessary, be accompanied by a courageous analysis of the reasons behind terrorist attacks. . . . . . . The fight against terrorism must eliminate the underlying causes of injustice which frequently drive people to desperate and violent acts. . . . . The unity of the human race is a more powerful reality than any divisions separating individuals and people.

"The use of force against terrorists cannot justify a renunciation of the rule of law. Political decisions would be unacceptable were they to seek success without consideration for fundamental human rights, since the end never justifies the means.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. Why would peacemakers be called children of God, if not because God is by nature the God of peace?

"Preserve order and order will preserve you.

"Government leaders sometimes violate with impurity human dignity and rights while hiding behind the unacceptable pretext that it is a matter internal to their State.

"For a long time international law has been a law of war and peace. I believe that it is called more and more to become exclusively a law of peace, conceived in justice and solidarity. Morality must inspire law, showing the path of what is right and good.

"Down the centuries, the teaching of the Church has made a significant contribution in directing international law to the common good of the whole human family.

"For the establishment of true peace in the world justice must find its fulfillment in charity. Certainly law is the first road leading to peace, and people need to be taught to respect that law. Yet one does not arrive at the end of this road unless justice is complemented by love. Justice and love sometimes appear to be opposing forces. In fact they are but two faces of a single reality, two dimensions of human life needing to be mutually integrated. Historical experience shows this to be true. It shows how justice is frequently unable to free itself from rancour, hatred and even cruelty. By itself, justice is not enough. Indeed, it can even betray itself, unless it is open to that deeper power which is love.

"Forgiveness is needed for solving the problems of individuals and peoples. There is no peace without forgiveness. A solution to the continuing crisis in Palestine and the Middle East will not be found until a decision is made to transcend the logic of simple justice and to be open also to the logic of forgiveness.

"Love is the loftiest and most noble form of relationship possible between human beings. Love must enliven every sector of human life and extend to the international order. Only a humanity in which there reigns the ‘civilization of love’ will be able to enjoy authentic and lasting peace.

"Brothers and Sisters throughout the world, of every language, religion and culture, in the end, love will be victorious! Let everyone be committed to hastening this victory. For it is the deepest hope of every human heart."


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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