Wed, 31 Dec 2003

World peace day for the fragile world society

Aloys Budi Purnomo, Contextual Theologian, Pontifical Faculty of Theology "Wedabhakti", Yogyakarta,

Pope Paul VI established a great tradition in history, the World Day of Peace on Jan. 1, 1968. Every Jan. 1, we celebrate the day not only within the church community, but also in the outside world. What is the significance of this World Day of Peace for mankind? Is it relevant to our lives today?

Pope John Paul II continues to commemorate this great tradition. Even in this, we can say that John Paul II is a promoter of peace in our world. He does not only celebrate it, but also marks it by delivering sharp and critical messages of peace. Every year, he publishes his World Day of Peace message, which relates considerable corpus of teaching concerning the promotion of peace in a religion to timely social issues.

In our lives today, an active promotion of peace requires that a special allowance must be given in educational programs to focus on actual situations in which peace is under threat. We can start promoting peace in our family. Every single family is a primary agent of a future of peace. To teach peace, parents must be people of peace, people who strive for peace. It is our responsibility to build our world in peace.

Last year, the theme for World Day of Peace was "no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness". This theme emphasized World Day of Peace's theme of 1997 that forgiveness must inhabit people's hearts before it can become a social reality. This year, the theme chosen for the day is "International Law: A Path for Peace". In choosing this theme, Pope John Paul II underlines the fragility of international law, particularly in the functioning of the United Nations, as seen in the context of the war in Iraq.

As stated by Archbishop Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, this year, the theme of the World Day of Peace intends to underline the value of law in the framework of international relations, starting from one essential principle: Pacta sunt servanda (Convention in good faith).

The Holy See is convinced that international law is a path to peace, as it believes that the common good for the world must be pursued with adequate structures of universal competence. This theme will thus support the UN, which needs reform at different levels to enable it to play this vital role in promoting justice and peace.

Furthermore, Renato Martino said we should proceed in two directions in reforming the UN. Firstly, we have to empower and improve the functioning of the Security Council. Secondly, the UN must be able to guarantee better order and security, not only from a political and military spheres, but also in the economic and social fields. For example, new issues on protecting the environment and health demand urgent measures to be respected by all.

In my mind, promoting peace and justice is more urgent now than ever before, because humanity is facing a crucial challenge today. By focusing on the importance of international law as a guarantor of peaceful relations among nations, while we hope it would give empower truly effective institutions to eliminate the scourge of war, the risk exists that the law of force will prevail over the force of law.

As proposed by Pope John Paul II in his Jan. 13, 1997 speech to the diplomatic corps at the Vatican, international law has long been a law of war and of peace.

I believe international law is increasingly called upon to be, exclusively, a law of peace to provide justice and solidarity. Rightly, peace and international law are closely linked to each other, in that the law favors peace.

Today, the fundamental principles that inspire such a conviction are the same ones that animate the commitment of every religion in favor of peace -- that is, equality in the dignity of every individual and every community, the unity of the human race and the primacy of law over force.

Obviously, peace is not simply the absence of war, nor can it be reduced only to establish a balance of litigant forces, nor is it the effect of despotic domination. Rather, its inherent definition is, precisely, justice.

Until now, however, while we continue to struggle to answer these questions, will violence end in Iraq and the Middle East? Will it be possible for these peoples to imagine an existence free from fear? Questions that, following the two vile terrorist attacks perpetrated in Baghdad and Jerusalem -- a city whose very name evokes peace -- seem to be farther than ever from a possible answer.

In Iraq, in Israel, in the Palestinian Territories, peace today seems more remote. A murderous will has tragically manifested itself in the precariousness of the Iraqi situation and the fragility of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

In tragedies against humanity, once again, the highest price has been paid by the innocents. Like all peoples in the area, they have to endure government policies characterized by abuse and the denial of fundamental human rights.

Genuine peace, however, is the work of justice and peace.

In Indonesia, we still have endless conflict areas across the country, from Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam to Papua. As noted by this newspaper, for the establishment of true peace -- in the world as well as in this country -- law and justice must go hand in hand. The lack of both makes peace elusive, especially because in all these areas of conflict, the use of force has been the exclusive means to settle disputes (The Jakarta Post, Dec. 24).

In our fragile world community, let us proclaim that peace is possible; let us have the courage to offer peace and to be agents of peace. How? Not like the military or politicians, who are certainly necessary in this world. Their task is not ours, and their means, methods and competencies are not ours.

Let us work for peace, not through violence, but by reaching out to the poor and afflicted, and filling their misery with the light of mercy, thereby healing their wounds and giving new value to life; by giving confidence and thus reconciling hearts, creating a new atmosphere, a new climate of hope and joy.

With this spirit, let us face New Year's Day 2004 openly as a new year of happiness, peace and justice.