Reflecting on Pope Francis' 2016 World Day of Peace message

Syrian girls walk near garbage inside an informal refugee camp in Zahle, Lebanon. Lebanon continues to bear the brunt of absorbing massive numbers of refugees. (CNS/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)

Deeply concerned about a "globalization of indifference," Pope Francis in his 2016 World Day of Peace message titled "Overcome Indifference and Win Peace," warns that "the first kind of indifference in human society is indifference to God, which then leads to indifference to one's neighbor and to the environment."

Pope Francis writes, "Some people prefer not to ask questions or seek answers; they lead lives of comfort, deaf to the cry of those who suffer. Almost imperceptibly, we grow incapable of feeling compassion for others and for their problems; we have no interest in caring for them, as if their troubles were their own responsibility, and none of our business."     

To help reverse this indifference, the Holy Father appeals to national leaders for concrete gestures in the creation of "dignified jobs to combat the social plague of unemployment. … Special attention needs to be given to women -- who unfortunately still encounter discrimination in the workplace -- and to some categories of workers whose conditions are precarious or dangerous, and whose pay is not commensurate to the importance of their social mission."

A very good way to respond to Pope Francis' concerns here would be to visit the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights to learn what you can do to help correct many of these injustices.

Regarding migrants, Pope Francis asks that legislation on migration "reflect a readiness to welcome migrants and to facilitate their integration."

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With emergency crises throughout the world, the pope's call for welcome and integration should inspire those of us who live in safety and comfort to urge our government -- with solid vetting processes in place -- to generously offer hospitality to suffering refugees.

On prison reform, Francis reminds societies that rehabilitation of criminal offenders needs to be an essential goal of penal systems. And here he emphasizes, "I would like once more to appeal to governmental authorities to abolish the death penalty where it is still in force."

The pope added this threefold appeal to the leaders of nations: "to refrain from drawing other peoples into conflicts or wars which destroy not only their material, cultural and social legacy, but also -- and in the long term -- their moral and spiritual integrity; to forgive or manage in a sustainable way the international debt of the poorer nations; and to adopt policies of cooperation which, instead of bowing before the dictatorship of certain ideologies, will respect the values of local populations and, in any case, not prove detrimental to the fundamental and inalienable right to life of the unborn."

With an increased commitment to nonviolent conflict resolution strategies, an end to the arms trade, multilateral disarmament, deep cuts in military spending, abolishing nuclear weapons, fair trade practices, significant increases in domestic and foreign poverty-focused spending, cancelling the remaining "debt" of poor nations (who in many cases have already paid back the original amount borrowed), and the elimination of funding to organizations that provide and/or promote abortion, leaders of nations could demonstrate concrete ways of honoring Pope Francis' appeal for overcoming indifference and winning peace. 

While thanking and encouraging people of all ages who undertake works of solidarity, and who generously help those in need -- near and far -- Pope Francis offers the wonderful consolation of Jesus: that their hunger and thirst for justice will be satisfied, their mercy will lead them to find mercy and, as peacemakers, they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:6-9).

[Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, "Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century," has been well-received by diocesan gatherings from San Clemente, Calif., to Baltimore. His email address is tmag@zoominternet.net.]

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