[Pope Francis] The leader of the 1.2 billion-member Church wove his first “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and world) message around the theme of peace.
“Peace is a daily commitment. It is a homemade peace,” he said.
He said that people of other religions were also praying for peace, and – departing from his prepared text – he urged atheists to join forces with believers.
“I invite even non-believers to desire peace. (Join us) with your desire, a desire that widens the heart. Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire, but everyone, for peace,” he said, drawing sustained applause from the crowd.
The thread running through the message was that individuals had a role in promoting peace, either with their neighbor or between nations.
Pope Francis continues to break down barriers in hopes of sparking meaningful change in the world. His message of personal accountability in tackling social injustices is meant to stir self-reflection–how do my actions affect those around me? This message is all the more compelling coming from a man who, by all accounts, practices what he preaches.
By reaching out to “non-believers”, Pope Francis reminded me of something a Philosophy professor once taught me. She said that morals and ethics (the “Golden Rule”) underpin all major religions. As a development economist, I can now appreciate the linkages between religion, morals / ethics, and the human rights based approach to development.
I renew my call to challenge anybody trying to sell a strict interpretation of any ideology and / or trying to dehumanize any group with stereotypes / racism. While there are probably obscure lines in most religions which mention fighting those who oppose it’s teachings, these lines are a contradiction to the very principles those religions are based upon.
It is time we rethink what it means to be a pious person. It is not about sectarian beliefs and isolation from / hatred towards those who are different. Piety is about self-reflection, personal accountability, inclusion, reconciliation and social progress. Whether one chooses to pursue this path through organized religion or not, “with prayer or desire”, is entirely up to the individual.
Pope Francis is truly a pious man, hopefully we can all learn from his teachings.
Merry Christmas to all!