Marking the Word Day of Peace on January 1, Pope Francis calls on individuals and nations to win peace by overcoming indifference. “Indifference,” the Holy Father explains, “leads to self-absorption and a lack of commitment. It thus contributes to the absence of peace with God, with our neighbor and with the environment.”
In the spirit of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, of which peace is the sign, the Pope challenged each of us to recognize how overcoming indifference in our own lives can work to improve the world around us, in our families, in our communities, our places of employment and our environment.
Indifference takes many forms, the Pontiff observed, beginning with indifference to God which leads us to believe that we are the source and creator of ourselves, our lives and our society. Feeling self-sufficient we do not seek a substitute for God but are satisfied to do completely without him, owing nothing to anyone but ourselves and being only interested in our own rights and self-gratification. Indifference to God leads to indifference to our neighbor and to the environment.
Indifference to our neighbor can be the result of our living mechanically and without engagement, despite being well informed on current events through newspapers and television news; we focus completely on our work or profession, even our family to the extent that we numb ourselves to the needs of others. In the words of Pope Francis, “Sadly, it must be said that today’s information explosion does not of itself lead to an increased concern for other people’s problems, which demands openness and a sense of solidarity. Indeed, the information glut can numb people’s sensibilities and to some degree downplay the gravity of the problems [of others].”
I cannot think of a better example of indifference to our neighbor than the depersonalization of the thousands of refugees from the Middle East and Central America, who are seen by so many not as desperate human beings seeking refuge from war and terror but as a problem to be solved and dispensed with.
Indifference, the Pope added, “and lack of commitment constitute a grave dereliction of the duty whereby each of us must work in accordance with our abilities and our role in society for the promotion of the common good, and in particular for peace, which is one of mankind’s most precious goods.” Commitment to the common good seems lost in a society where independence rather than interdependence is the desired goal of so many.
Institutional indifference is driven by the pursuit of profits and hedonism that reduces people to commodities robbing them of their dignity, fundamental rights and even their freedom. Governmental indifference is the by-product of the voice of the marginalized being drowned out by the influence of powerful commercial interests and blind partisanship.
In his letter, the Holy Father calls upon civil society in the spirit of the Jubilee Year of Mercy to “make specific and courageous gestures of concern for their most vulnerable members such as prisoners, migrants, the unemployed and the infirm.” Further he appeals “to national leaders for concrete gestures in favor of our brothers and sisters who suffer from the lack of labor, land and lodging,” by creating dignified jobs to combat the social plague of unemployment which takes such a heavy toll on people’s sense of dignity and hope.
In his message for peace Pope Francis reminds us that the opposite of mercy is indifference and that the globalization of indifference is as great a deterrent to peace as the piecemeal wars being fought.
This post is also available in/Esta entrada también está disponible en: Spanish