Powerful world leaders from India to US embark on outrageous lies to keep people divided and submissive

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
Christmas Season is a time for gift-giving; that New Year’s Day falls bang in the midst of it, adds to the significance of the season. In welcoming and celebrating the first day of 2017, there are eight wonderful gifts, one should give to oneself and to others today and for every day of the year. These are:

Gift of Peace
It is a much-needed and perhaps the best gift we can give ourselves and to each other this Christmas. Real peace is a vibrant, living and tangible one.
It is not the peace of the graveyard, but the peace which ordinary people can experience in the marketplace, in a crowded railway station, in a shopping mall, in a place of worship in a discotheque- yes everywhere where they can rub shoulders with one another and create space for the other, irrelevant of the colour of one’s skin of or one’s ethnicity or religion or caste or class The peace of equality and dignity.
The first message which the angels give to ordinary shepherds whilst heralding the birth of Jesus is “Peace on Earth: to all men and women of goodwill!” Today is the World Day of Peace and we pray for the gift of Peace for all!
Gift of Nonviolence
On this World Day of Peace, Pope Francis has given the world a very relevant theme to reflect and act upon ‘Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace’. In his message he emphatically says that, “violence is not the cure for our broken world.”
Pope Francis also reminds us of icons of nonviolence and peace like Mahatma Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Leymah Gbowee and the thousands of Liberian women – all of them deserving of emulation. It is certainly not easy to be nonviolent in a world that seems to have institutionalised violence. The most prized gifts for little children at Christmas are toy guns and violent video games.
We easily blame ‘terrorists’, conveniently forgetting those who profit in manufacturing and peddling arms and ammunition to every side in a war. We have seen enough of violence in this past year (last night a New Year’s party in Istanbul was attacked killing almost forty revellers), wars and conflicts at every level: countries at war, civil wars and domestic violence. Nonviolence is the gift we need for a meaningful and lasting peace.
Gift of Justice
Much of the conflicts in today's world are because of injustices meted out to particular sections of society. Deprivations, exploitation, human rights violations abound everywhere. We generally don’t seem to care about them –as long as we are not affected! Just a few days ago, a UN Security Council resolution on the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, has been totally disregarded, even as most countries of the world support the Palestinian cause.
Then we have the UN Climate Change Conferences which have resulted in the ‘Paris Agreement’ and which today has been signed by 194 countries. However, in a deplorable U-turn some countries feel that they can no longer be held responsible for the climate changes the world has been subjected to. Human rights defenders, the world over, have become soft targets for the powerful. We need to be united and resolute, wherever we are, in fighting injustices. We need to gift ourselves with a more just world!
Gift of Truth
The so-called ‘powerful leaders’ of our world embark on outrageous lies to keep people divided, submissive and subjugated We experience it happening all the time: from India to the United States! In India, these myths, half-truths and preposterous reasoning have been given a new name ‘fekuisms’. During the time of Hitler, the underlying principle was “repeat a lie a thousand times and it becomes the truth”; something which his propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels mastered to perfection.
The propagation of untruth is today regarded as ‘Goebbelsian’. A large section of the media today is corporatised, bought up or just kotows to the ideology of vested interests. Mahatma Gandhi together with his doctrine of nonviolence (ahimsa) was also adamant on ‘the force of truth’(satyagraha), Truth seekers and whistle-blowers are hounded and done away with. Our world desperately needs to mainstream truth as never before!
Gift of Liberty
Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us that “a piece of freedom is no longer enough for human beings...unlike bread, a slice of liberty does not finish hunger. Freedom is like life. It cannot be had in installments. Freedom is indivisible--we have it all, or we are not free!”. People everywhere continue to be denied their liberty: millions forcibly displaced: child- labourers robbed of their childhood; women dominated and oppressed by patriarchy; higher castes enslaving those below them; the many in prisons without a fair trial; migrant workers tied up in feudal systems- the list is endless!
Then there is ‘fear’ – which grips so many in society today. We label the ‘other’ so easily; we become suspicious of their dress or the language they speak! Liberty is a priceless gift and we need to reflect it in our attitudes, in the way we treat and reach out to others.
Gift of Joy
We celebrate today the feast of Mary Mother of God and we are reminded how Mary kept " all things in her heart”. The sublime joy of Mary, a mother and our Mother, as she looks upon her son Jesus. True joy is something internal and deeply spiritual. There are of course the external manifestations of celebration: as the clock struck twelve last nights, there were fireworks and shouting, the honking of cars and the hooting of trumpets from Tonga to Samoa, over a twenty-two hours’ period.
All were certainly happy to say ‘goodbye’ to one year and ‘welcome’ the other. The fact is that external manifestations of joy however necessary, are short-lived. The world cries for the simple joys of life: the ability to spend time with the poor and the excluded; the orphan and the old; the sick and the lonely. To reach out to another in silent, hidden, unassuming ways. The gentle touch, the warm embrace! We all need to experience that real joy and to share it with others every day of 2017!
Gift of Love
Joy which brings fulfilment, is also love which is tangible. Many in our world today have become pawns to the venom spewed out by our so-called ‘leaders’ who spare no efforts in making their hate and divisive agenda reach every corner of their constituency. They easily discriminate against the vulnerable; use the most derogative language; talk about building walls and have no qualms of conscience in being ready to unleash a nuclear war.
The world urgently needs the soothing balm of love: to touch, to heal, to make whole again. The love that means, compassion and mercy; that demonstrates reconciliation and forgiveness. It is the basic tenet of every major faith of this world. Love, we know, never fails. It is a fool-proof way to negate the blood and the hate that has spilt everywhere. Love indeed is the greatest of gifts-and has to be manifested in deeds!
Gift of Change
Today at the helm of the United Nations we have a new Secretary General, Antonio Guterres; the world looks forward to his stewardship with much expectation. Ban Ki- moon who has just laid down office after ten years, certainly did a great job in the face of many difficulties and hostilities Guterres brings to his office a hands on experience of dealing with refugees and displaced persons as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for almost ten years, earlier.
The world certainly needs change at every level; but we all need change for the better. It does not matter who we are, what we do or the position and the power we hold- what will ultimately triumph is our belief that we can contribute positively to our world. We need to be the change we want to see- very specially in the small, simple, ordinary things of daily life.
Above all, as we enter the New Year 2017, we need to have the courage to gift ourselves with peace, nonviolence, justice, truth, liberty, joy, love and change  and the humility to share it with others!
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*Advocacy & Communications, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), MENA Region, Beirut

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