The Vatican announced Tuesday that the theme for 2016’s World Day of Peace will focus on a topic Pope Francis has spoken out against relentlessly since the beginning of his pontificate: indifference. “Indifference in regard to the scourges of our time is one of the fundamental causes of the lack of peace,” an Aug. 11 statement from the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace read. The statement coincided with the announcement of “Overcome Indifference and win Peace” as the theme for the next World Day of Peace, to be celebrated Jan. 1, 2016. It builds off last year’s theme “No longer slaves, but brothers and sisters,” which is a commitment the council said should continue with increased consciousness and cooperation. Today the attitude of indifference “is often linked to various forms of individualism which cause isolation, ignorance, selfishness and, therefore, lack of interest and commitment,” the statement read. It also stressed that peace doesn’t happen overnight, but is something that must be worked for with continuous effort, as well as personal conversion and a spirit of creativity and positivity when engaging in discussion. “Such action must urgently have recourse to build a sense of responsibility and awareness creation about the serious problems and challenges afflicting our time,” such as fundamentalism, intolerance, massacres and persecutions based on one’s faith and ethnicity. The council also pointed to a blatant disregard for freedom and the destruction of the rights of entire peoples, the exploitation of persons who fall victim to different forms of slavery, corruption and organized crime, as well as war and the plight of refugees and forcibly displaced persons as serious problems that need to be addressed. An increase of information doesn’t necessarily mean there is an increased attention to the problems, unless the information is coupled with a “solidarity-based openness of conscience,” the council said. In order to achieve this, the collaboration of families, educators, teachers, people of culture, media practitioners, intellectuals and artists is essential, they said. “Indifference can be won only responding together to this challenge.” Instituted by Bl. Pope Paul VI in 1968, the World Day of Peace is celebrated each year on the first day of January. The Pope gives a special message for the occasion, which is sent to all foreign ministers around the world, and which also indicates the Holy See’s diplomatic tone during the coming year. Indifference is one of the topics most frequently brought up by Francis, and is something he has condemned since his election in March 2013. On July 8, 2013, just four months after he was named Bishop of Rome, Francis visited the Italian island of Lampedusa, a primary destination of African emigrants, as a sign of solidarity with those who come to the island seeking a better life in Europe. In his homily at Mass, the newly-elected Pope blasted what he called “the culture of comfort,” which he said “makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others.” “In this globalized world,” he continued, “we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business.” Francis also chose the theme of indifference for his Lenten message earlier this year, titled after the biblical passage “Make Your Hearts Firm” from James Chapter 5 verse 8. At the heart of the message was the Pope’s condemnation of the “globalization of indifference,” and he urged faithful to fight individualism with merciful hearts that are more attentive to the needs of others. “(Jesus) is interested in each of us; his love does not allow him to be indifferent to what happens to us,” he said, adding that often times when we live a healthy and comfortable lifestyle, “we forget about others.” “We are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure...Our heart grows cold,” the Pope noted, explaining that today this “selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference.” In the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace’s statement, it was emphasized that peace is possible wherever human rights are both “recognized and respected, heard and known, according to freedom and justice.” The message for 2016, they said, is a starting point for all people of good will, most specifically those who work in education, media and culture, to do what they are able in order to work together in building a more conscious, merciful, free and fair world.
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