Pope's World Day of Peace message would suit Canada

  • January 8, 2010
{mosimage}On peace and on climate change Canada isn’t measuring up to Pope Benedict XVI’s vision for peace on Earth and good will toward men, according to life-long Conservative and retired Senator Doug Roche.

The Pope’s message for World Day of Peace links progress toward peace to climate change and environmental degradation. The Vatican headlined the message “If you want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation.”

“The Pope is displaying some vision in his statement,” said Roche. “Vision that is sorely absent from the conduct of the Canadian government today.”

For Canada’s former ambassador to the United Nations on disarmament, Benedict’s explicit link between climate change and peace is obvious.

“The fact is the military is the biggest polluter of the environment and wars are destructive of the human habitat,” said Roche. “The global problem of the environment is certainly connected to building the conditions for peace.”

But that’s not what Canada is doing, he said.

“It is shocking that the (2009) increase in Canada’s defence budget alone — that’s a $1-billion increase — is greater than the entire budget for the environment,” Roche said.

If the developed world dominates economically, controlling most of the resources, conflict both within and between less developed countries is a likely result, said the Pope.

“Among the causes of the present ecological crisis is the historical responsibility of the industrialized countries,” wrote Pope Benedict.

As in his June encyclical Caritas in Veritate, the Pope calls on rich nations to fund economic development that will benefit the poor.

“This would be accomplished more easily if self-interest played a lesser role in granting of aid and the sharing of knowledge and cleaner technologies,” he said.

Development, peace and a way out of the environmental crisis depends on a moral framework at every level, from families to international state craft, according to the Pope.

“Our present crises — be they economic, food-related, environmental or social — are ultimately also moral crises, and all of them are interrelated,” said the World Peace Day message. “They require us to rethink the path which we are travelling together.”

So far, world peace is yet to break out, said Project Ploughshares’ Greg Birks.

“Little bits and pieces here and there, hopefully. But no, afraid not,” he said.

Birks co-ordinates the Christian think tank’s annual Armed Conflicts Report. The 2009 report isn’t due out until March, but at this point Birks sees no dramatic changes between 2008 and 2009.

“I don’t see anything going on the map, or coming off,” Birks told The Catholic Register.

Last year’s Armed Conflicts Report included a map that showed 28 conflicts in 24 countries. Project Ploughshares counts any conflict which has killed more than 1,000 people as an active war until the death toll falls below 25 in a year.

The trend over the last decade has been toward a decreasing number of wars. In 2000 Project Ploughshares counted 40 wars. The decrease is a testament to the effectiveness of targeted peace-keeping and peace-building efforts, according to Birks.

In 2009 things got worse in Yemen, but there were signs of hope in Nigeria — two of the countries that have been on the Project Ploughshares conflict map for most of the last decade.

“Yemen has gone from an internal (conflict) to involving more regional issues,” said Birk.

As for Nigeria’s ethnic conflict and rebel uprising in the Niger Delta, “there still seems to be more possibility of a resolution there than at this time last year,” said Birks.

In his Angelus address on Jan. 1, Pope Benedict urged Catholics to face up to their responsibility for creating peace.

“We should simply become designers of peace, lay down every class of weapons and commit ourselves together to building a world more worthy of the person,” he said.

“The Canadian government ought to be learning from Pope Benedict’s message, in my view,” said Roche.

Jan. 1 this year was the 43rd World Day of Peace, which is celebrated on the same day as the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The feast is closely linked with Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris and Pope Paul VI’s Populorum Progressio.

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