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Pope’s World Day of Peace 2012 Message: What’s in It for Mindanao

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I appeal to everyone: let us pool our spiritual, moral and material resources for the great goal of “educating young people in justice and peace”.  So said Pope Benedict XVI in concluding his message for World Day of Peace 2012, which is observed by Vatican every first day of each year.   “Educating young people in justice and peace” is the theme of his New Year’s message.

The Pope appeals to parents, educators and all other community leaders including the media and youth themselves to teach the young in the ways of justice that in turn leads to individual and social peace.  The main rationale for learning and practicing justice and peace, he says, stems from the fact that every person is made in the image and likeness of God.  “The first step in education is learning to recognize the Creator’s image in man, and consequently learning to have a profound respect for every human being and helping others to live a life consonant with this supreme dignity,” he says.  (Jesus whose birth – that is, God becomes man - is celebrated during this Advent/Christmas season is the greatest flesh and blood proof as well as poster boy symbol of this assertion.)

Such right relations with God and others creates in the person an authentic freedom which empowers him/her to work for justice and peace, the Pope says further.   “The exercise of freedom is intimately linked to the natural moral law, which is universal in character, expresses the dignity of every person and forms the basis of fundamental human rights and duties: consequently, in the final analysis, it forms the basis for just and peaceful coexistence,” he explains.   Hence, one need not be a Christian, may even be an atheist, to be and to do good because every person is born with a heart that beats with the grace-giving force of that “natural moral law”.

In the beginning of his message, the Pope acknowledges that people around the world today live amid many crises – “a shadow has fallen over our time.”  These crises darken the future of the young and the world in general, especially our confidence and trust in ourselves to build an ideal world ahead.  But he believes that the youth as they always have throughout human history can and will overcome the challenges, once they learn those ways and skills of justice and peace.

For its part, Peace Advocates Zamboanga will do just that through its continuous trainings on the culture of peace and conflict management for hundreds of young people during the coming year.  PAZ will also teach the ropes of peace education to school administrators and classroom teachers, further turning them and their students into peace catalysts in their respective communities.

Peace-building in the sense of attaining and living a life that is comparatively free of violence and conflict is increasingly an urgent task for young and old alike.  For us in Mindanao, the ongoing tragedy brought about by tropical depression Sendong is but the latest – an incredibly devastating – message urging us to rebuild our “peace with creation”, with Nature in this case.  For us here and the rest of the country, natural disaster has apparently overtaken terrorism, communal war and criminalities as the number one threat to peace and security, and potentially to the nation’s political stability.  It is a national emergency which if not met adequately could render most of the country more and more unfit and unsafe for human habitation in the coming years, resulting in ecological diasporas.  Overcoming this serious threat is a job especially cut out for the youth, because this is all about their survival, not to say of their peace.  (Our Peace/Peace Advocates  Zamboanga)




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