By Luann Mostello
The theme--lasting peace in the world can be achieved only by responding to the needs of current and future generations--is expressed in Pope Francis’ 2022 World Day of Peace (WDP) message, “Dialogue Between Generations, Education and Work: Tools for Building Lasting Peace.”
The pope is continuing his efforts to lay out a path to peace. Without specifically invoking nonviolence as the main structure, in Laudato Si and Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis puts out some of its fundamental principles --. commitment to promoting the dignity of each human person, solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, the pursuit of the common good and concern for protection of creation. In his 2021 WDP message he emphasizes the result of these principles, a “culture of care.” In the WDPmessage for 2022 he follows Saint John XXIII, reads the “signs of the times” and gives a response-- three tools to implement these principles for a lasting peace.
Pope Francis describes the bleak signs, “While diseases of pandemic proportions are spreading, effects of climate change and environmental degradation are worsening, the tragedy of hunger and thirst is increasing, and an economic model based on individualism rather than on solidary sharing continues to prevail.” He then proposes three pillars for a new structure, “the creation of a social covenant, without which every project of peace turns out to be insubstantial.”
Pope Francis sees people fleeing from reality, taking refuge in their own little world or reacting with destructive violence. He proposes that a dialogue between generations would bring about a partnering of the wisdom and experience of the older generations (the keepers of memory) with the dynamism and creativity of the young (those who move history forward). In the search for sustainable projects for the future, both groups would be sharing their gifts as they work together to structure a more just world and to safeguard the environment.
Even though teaching and education are the “foundations of a cohesive civil society,” the harsh reality is that investment in education is dwarfed by the exorbitant expenditures for military activities. Pope Francis laments that without this foundation the “culture of care,” a form of societal love where fraternity and integral ecology lead to building a better world, will not be realized in the face of this inequity. The most important change must be “inverting the proportion of public funds spent on education and on weaponry. The pursuit of a genuine process of international disarmament can only prove beneficial for the development of peoples and nations, freeing up financial resources better used for health care, schools, infrastructure, care of the land and so forth.”
In the shadows of the pandemic, organized crime, and violence the Pope has observed how the poor, migrants, short-term workers and the young entering the job market suffer in a stressed economy. He sees how technology crowds out the human workforce and precarious conditions plague the worker. He envisions the third tool as creating and ensuring labor. Since dignified employment opportunities allow the worker to cooperate with others and to contribute to the lives of his family and of society as a whole, entrepreneurial initiatives should be encouraged. Essential in the social and political spheres is a fair balance between economic freedom and social justice where profit does not trump social responsibility and the common good.
Pope Francis has given us a toolkit for a social covenant. We are to reject selfishness and share our diverse gifts by joining in dialogue, we make a change in priorities by turning away from the death with weaponry and into a strong civil society through education, and we imbue the labor force with dignity by working towards the common good. Like him we need to pray for the humility, courage and creativity to use these tools and become “artisans of peace.”