The message of Pope Francis in this Jubilee Year of Mercy urges us more than ever to live the immense gift of Peace. It is a strong plea that shakes our conscience and invites us to convert ourselves. Peace and Mercy: two inseparable elements for coexistence among people and with all Creation, and two words which we have become more aware of today, now that they are absent. A piece of the papal message brought me back to my homeland. It is really moving for me – an Arab-Catholic of Palestinian origin – to study Jesus’ behaviour following the motto, “Overcome indifference and achieve Peace.” In retracing those places, I can affirm that He lived as a Person and narrated divine parables taken from daily life.
Sad to say, still today in my homeland, Peace is still not fully known, even if it is where the three great monotheistic religions were founded. Eight million people live in the State of Israel and four million in the Palestinian Territories. In these two localities the Christians make up 2% of the population, and belong to various churches: the Catholic, Orthodox, Armenian, Syriac-Orthodox, Coptic, Lutheran and other churches. It is a tiny land but a vast one for its multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-confessional dimensions, and one that suffered many invasions, conquests and conflicts that still continue today.
The possibility for peaceful coexistence is still a path to be traced, even if here and there, efforts have been made to find a just and enduring political solution. Fear and mutual distrust have raised walls of division between one and the other part of the population, and above all, hostility and diffidence in the hearts of people, which are difficult to demolish.
The Pope’s words struck me deeply: “At individual and community level, indifference towards one’s neighbour results from indifference towards God, and assumes the aspect of inertia and non-commitment, that nurtures the prolonging of situations of injustice and serious social imbalance, which in turn may lead to conflicts or, in every case, generate a climate of dissatisfaction that risks turning into violence and insecurity, sooner or later.”
In the years I have lived in Jerusalem, together with many others I tried to diffuse the spirit of true and sincere dialogue between the Arabs and Jews, through friendship and affection which only human relationships can instate. In fact, it is not so effective to speak of peace, only in a political sense, if we do not first build relationships with people. Our efforts gave rise to moments of encounter between the youth and families, protagonists of the two parties that effected concrete actions of pacification, solidarity, and mutual respect.
“Overcome indifference and achieve Peace” is a message that brings new hope to our hearts. The Pope admonishes by saying: “Some prefer not to seek peace or information, and live in their wellbeing and comfort, turning a deaf ear to humanity’s cry of pain. We have become almost unaware of and unable to feel compassion for others and their dramatic lives. We do not care about them, as if what is happening to them is not our responsibility.”
Pope Francis’s message gives us a new impulse towards real change. May 2016 see us all firmly and assuredly involved at various levels, in creating justice and working for peace which is a gift of God, entrusted to all men and women of the world. It is up to each of us to achieve this goal.