I was a bit taken aback recently when a Church leader told me he had received a death threat. He had suggested that the world would be different now if reaction to the horror of the terrorism against the New York World Trade Centre had been based upon Christ-like love, not military might and violence, particularly against Iraq.
It is striking too how little attention has been given to the injustices experienced by the Palestinian and Arab peoples over many life times. Media articles today discussing solutions to the Arab-Israeli and other conflicts in the that region ignore these injustices. We know now that many terrorists are emotionally damaged people who saw their parents and families killed by bombs and other weapons when at a young age. While this does not justify their crimes, we still need to learn from it.
And in Australia, we read of people justifying the detention of women and children for years while the legitimacy of their refugee status is being tested. What will be the emotional impact of these sufferings on these children in future?
When visiting schools, I often ask myself how as a nation did we learn to so repress our humanity that we can tolerate primary school aged children, and younger, being kept in such inhumane conditions? How can Australian parents and grandparents of children the same age accept this situation? Christians believe that the end can never justify such means.
Over Christmas, we will be celebrating Christ’s birth. But how many Australians really get what Jesus was on about?
He came to give us another way – the way of God’s love and justice, the way that leads to true peace. He spoke of turning the other cheek, and forgiving as God does – which is always.
Two of the reasons why Jesus came were ‘that we might know God’s love’, and ‘to be our model of holiness’. Let us celebrate this Christmas by asking whether or not we are reflecting on the issues of today in ways that advance the reasons why Christ came.
Lasting solutions to today’s complexities will not be found unless we analyse the problems and develop responses in ways that are based upon the way of Christ. Jesus Christ was born into a Roman empire that imposed peace by military might and conquest. The ‘peace by force’ mind-set of the Emperor Augustus was not much different from the prevailing mind-set of many individuals, governments and media today.
The angels sang of the ‘Peace on Earth’ Christ would bring. We know now that, to find such peace, we need to follow his way. A truly Gospel mind-set is the only way forward for today’s world. This is true not just at the international level, but also at the level of marriages and families in which there are problems.
May we all be prophets of the way of the Christ-child this Christmas. Ridicule and other reactions will be a small price to pay for the real peace Christ came to bring that first Christmas.
Christ’s peace and blessings be with you all.
Most Reverend Gerard J Holohan
Bishop of Bunbury