In a few hours from now, we will ring out another year and bring in 2015! For many of us, 2014 was not the year we wished or prayed for; but when one looks back and begins to count one’s blessings, there is much indeed to be thankful for. The dark areas, the grey ones, the sad and painful ones, in ways very unique have also brought us closer to God and have helped us realise that our hearts are truly restless until it rests in Him.
2014 has been too painful wherein the world has witnessed how peace, non-violence and love were so easily sacrificed on the altars of war, violence and hate. We have seen it in various parts of the world particularly in Egypt and in Syria; in the massacre of over 130 innocent children in Pakistan, which will forever be etched in our memory; in the senseless slaying of more than 80 adivasis by Bodo militants in Assam, a reality that was closer home. It has been a painful year indeed!
So what do we look forward to and what can we hope for in 2015? There is plenty indeed! January 1st is observed by the Catholic Church as the ‘World Day of Peace’. Special prayers and liturgical celebrations are conducted all over with a focus on peace. In 1968, when Pope Paul VI introduced the World Day of Peace, he wrote, “The world must be educated to love peace, to build it up and defend it.” There could be no truer words than these. 2015 then brings to us a very powerful reminder of how each one of us can become instruments of peace.
Pope Francis in his message for the World Day of Peace 2015 provides us with a challenging theme, ‘No longer slaves, but brothers and sisters’. He calls for a global mobilisation to combat human trafficking and slavery of every kind. He asserts, “That many people think that slavery is a thing of the past but this social plague remains all too real in today’s world with child labour, forced prostitution, trafficking for organs and a variety of forms of forced labour.” Further he appeals to every consumer to shun goods that have been produced by exploiting workers and states, “Every person ought to have awareness that purchasing is always a moral and not simply an economic act.”
The Church in India observes this day on January 30th – (the day on which Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated) as a tribute to the apostle of non-violence who fought against discrimination. Pope Francis in his message for the day, reminds us that, “Fraternity requires us to reject any inequality which would allow one person to enslave another. Our purpose is to build a civilisation based on the equal dignity of every person without discrimination”. Strangely and sadly however, Nathuram Godse, the person who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi is being flaunted by some as a ‘patriot’; this needs to be opposed by all citizens who truly cherish the values for which Gandhi lived and died for.
2015 is also dedicated as the ‘International Year of Light’ and the ‘International Year of Soil’ by the United Nations – a fitting reminder that all of us are called to be lights in a world that is often overcome by darkness and to truly be a soil, fertile enough for values to sprout and to bear fruit in abundance.
In the concluding statement of his message, Pope Francis gives us the roadmap – a plan of action for each one of us for the new year, “We know that God will ask each of us: What did you do for your brother? (cf. Gen 4:9-10). The globalisation of indifference, which today burdens the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters, requires all of us to forge a new worldwide solidarity and fraternity capable of giving them new hope and helping them to advance with courage amid the problems of our time and the new horizons which they disclose and which God places in our hands.”
May we all truly ensure and celebrate a peaceful 2015!
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash sj is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)