New Year’s Day is the World Day of Peace. In Pope Francis’s World Day of Peace message, he highlighted: “fraternity is the foundation and pathway to peace.” Yet we know how profoundly broken and torn by violence our world is, as the Pope points out:
“There seems to be no end to grave offences against fundamental human rights, especially the right to life and the right to religious freedom . . . the tragic phenomenon of human trafficking . . . armed conflicts . . . and the less visible but no less cruel wars fought in the economic sector.”
Today, Columbans around the world are a living witness of fraternity among the world’s poor and vulnerable members of many societies.
Among victims of religious intolerance in Pakistan, Columban Father Tomas King has witnessed some of the worst inter-religious persecution in recent years, as tensions between Christians and Muslims deteriorated into massive violence:
“On September 22, 2013, parishioners at the All Saints Day Church in Peshawar were subject to an attack that took a toll of 81 people, including 37 women. Another 140 were seriously injured in the terrorist attack. At the same time, villagers in the tribal areas have been victims of drone attacks. The cycle of violence continues to create victims on all sides.”
And among villagers subject to government repression for their witness for peace in Korea, Columban Father Pat Cunningham stands with villagers to protect Jeju Island:
“For years now, the Seoul Government’s decision to allow a military base to be built on Jeju Island is about to destroy the dolphin habitat and the traditional farming and fishing village of Gangjeong, transforming an island known for biodiversity, international peace, and school trips into a focal point of rising militarism and an arms race in East Asia. According to Bishop Kang Woo-Il, ‘Military bases cannot save peace and life.'”
These expressions of fraternity and solidarity are a testimony to the love and witness of Columbans throughout the world; and they remind us: “In this mutual understanding and friendship, in this sacred communion, we must also . . . work together to build the common future of the human race.” (World Day of Peace message, citing Paul VI)