100th Anniversary of the End of World War I
In his annual address to the world's ambassadors to the Vatican, Pope Francis reflected on peace in the world, connecting it to 2018's centenary commemoration marking the end of World War I. He highlighted two lessons that he lamented weren't learned in 1918, for World War II ignited less than 20 years later. While these lessons are grounded in a clear reading of the history of the war, they grow as largely from the Gospel and our Catholic social teaching. One, peace cannot come from humiliating a defeated foe. Two, peace is advanced when nations discuss issues as equals; here the pope was referencing the establishment of the League of Nations that foreshadowed the United Nations.
Certainly, none of us has the power to negotiate world peace. Yet, we are responsible for peace in our worlds of home, family, community, work, and school, and these lessons, especially the second, may help us contribute to the concord in the contexts where our power is strong. It is reasonable to experience conflict in our various relationships. Spouses argue and sometimes hurt each other, colleagues can disagree at work and compromise a mission, and friendships can chill when issues are not discussed appropriately.
The pope's insight is both simple and challenging. To bring peace back to a relationship the dialogue partners must be equals, which is easier said than done. At work, a conflict could be between a supervisor and subordinate. Or, at home, the division might be related to a betrayal that causes one person to feel, understandably, as the weaker party. In these instances, dialogue about power differences may be a necessary first step prior to dialoging about the issues at hand. Again, not an easy task.
However, the pope reminded the ambassadors that the rights and relationships of nations are "like all human relationships" and must be navigated in accord with the virtues of "truth, justice, willing cooperation, and freedom." He went on to discuss how fundamental human dignity makes all people equal.
During this present moment of division and difficulty in our civic, national, and international relationships, perhaps we are called to consider how the relationships for which we, in fact, are responsible generate peace. We may not be ambassadors for our nation, but we are, as St. Paul reminds us, ambassadors for Christ who have the power to be peacemakers where we find ourselves living, working, and studying.
As a favorite church hymn goes, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."