Peace on Earth–sadly again in short supply this Christmas

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EVERY Christmas, it seems, we feel obliged to share this same message. The reason why, of course, is that the message is consistently relevant. This year, unfortunately, it seems more relevant than it does in most years.

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The message is this: In the midst of what we hope is a joyous celebration of Christmas for everyone, we also hope that all of us can spare a thought and a prayer – and do more if we are able – for a world that seems so full of misery.

Throughout this year, the news has been filled with distressing stories. The vicious, confusing war in Syria – which has been raging for more than four years now – became even more desperate this year, driving hundreds of thousands of refugees to seek shelter in other places, a dangerous exodus that many of them did not survive.
Another war, almost as savage but largely ignored by the rest of the world, erupted in Yemen, with similarly dire consequences for the people of that country. Brutal extremism has also spread rapidly this year; the depredations of groups like Daesh in Syria, Iraq, and other places in the Middle East, Boko Haram in Africa, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan suddenly became obvious threats anywhere in the world with spectacular attacks in Turkey, France, and the United States.

Closer to our homes, it now appears true that Daesh is recruiting jihad warriors for its murderous actions abroad and, God forbid, would also do mayhem here in our country too.

And while the recent climate talks in Paris offered the promise of a plan to reduce the harm we are causing the environment, they also reminded us of the threats an increasingly hostile climate poses – a point driven home in a not at all unfamiliar way with the onslaught of Typhoon Nona and Tropical Storm Onyok last week. Many people will also be affected in the months to come by the El Niño phenomenon, which is forecast to cause drought conditions in most of the country.

As the year approaches its end, and as we celebrate our own health and achievements, we need to remind ourselves that for every one of us who is able to enjoy the holidays, there is someone somewhere else who is suffering. Somewhere perhaps even close to home. In the past few weeks, besides those displaced by bad weather, thousands have been made homeless by a series of huge fires around Metro Manila, and all throughout this year, people in various parts of Mindanao have been displaced by conflict that never seems to end.

Spare a thought for those less fortunate than us this Christmas. Include them in your prayers. But more importantly, resolve to learn about their plight, and offer what help you can. The world need not be a frightening and dangerous place, but it takes everyone to do their part to make it better. Let us make that determination the gift we give ourselves and each other this Christmas in honor of the Little Babe who is our Savior and the King of Kings.

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