Years ago, I traveled with Catholic Relief Services on a solidarity visit to South Sudan, where I met young people affected by decades of violent conflict in their country.
Willy, a young father, described the pain of separation from his family, who had fled across the border due to violence.
Hannah shared her sorrow at the loss of a family member.
Priscilla reflected on the developmental and educational opportunities she had lost during her childhood in a refugee camp.
Taban spoke words that likely echo those of many others in war-torn locations, such as Yemen, Syria, Somalia—and most recently, Ukraine:
“If you ask me what peace is, I cannot answer. I do not know what peace is like. But I long to know it.”
What can we do to address the violence that affects so many of our brothers and sisters around the world?
- We can pray. Many wonderful tools are available, including the Holy Hour for Peace. Pope Benedict XVI reminded us in Sacramentum Caritatis that through the celebration of the Eucharist, our universal communion is strengthened. As a result, “all who partake of the Eucharist must commit themselves to peacemaking in our world scarred by violence and war.”
- We can support the work of Catholic Relief Services to build peace in conflict-affected countries.
- We can welcome refugee families into our homes or invite others to discern this opportunity.
- We can work to address gun violence in our own country. Pope Francis made this appeal last June: “My heart is broken over the massacre at the primary school in Texas… It is time to say ‘no more’ to the indiscriminate trafficking of weapons.” Catholics can join with the U.S. Catholic bishops in their call for reasonable gun measures to protect children.
- Finally, we can seek to address violence in our own hearts by prayerfully examining how, through our attitudes, words, and actions, we can sometimes contribute to division and polarization instead of building a culture of encounter. This examination of conscience can help us as we reflect on Pope Francis’ invitation to build peace in our hearts.
May we together respond this month to Pope Francis’ invitation to build a culture of peace and nonviolence!
Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (United States)