January 1st ushers in the start of a new year and the hope for a better year. Within the Catholic tradition this date is dedicated as the World Day of Peace and every year the Pope offers his annual “World Day of Peace Message.” With this message the Catholic Church expresses a global hope for peace in our world and calls us to be agents of justice and peace. This year Pope Benedict XVI’s message is titled “Educating Young People in Justice and Peace.”
I encourage all people to meditate on this message and to take up the invitation to be educators of Justice and Peace to the youth and young adult. The message offers a theology that grounds our responsibility for being advocates of Justice and Peace. I will not go over it here as I prefer that the reader contemplate the message in its entirety but I will share the hope and invitation that Pope Benedict offers us with this message.
The concerns expressed in recent times by many young people around the world demonstrate that they desire to look to the future with solid hope. At the present time, they are experiencing apprehension about many things: they want to receive an education which prepares them more fully to deal with the real world, they see how difficult it is to form a family and to find stable employment; they wonder if they can really contribute to political, cultural and economic life in order to build a society with a more human and fraternal face.
It is important that this unease and its underlying idealism receive due attention at every level of society. The Church looks to young people with hope and confidence; she encourages them to seek truth, to defend the common good, to be open to the world around them and willing to see “new things” (Is 42:9; 48:6).
In encouraging all people, but especially the youth, to be defenders of the common good the Pope is asking us all to be advocates of justice and peace. Pope John XXIII defined the common good as “the sum total of those conditions of social living whereby men are enabled more fully and more readily to achieve their own perfection.” It is quite clear from the message and from the excerpt above that Pope Benedict is particularly concerned with the global economic situation. In promoting the common good we must be particularly attentive to the economic reality that is affecting so many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world.
For my part I would like to take the opportunity of this message to promote the art of advocacy as a tool for the youth and young adults to go out and become agents of social change. Bread for the World offers folks the tools and opportunity to be advocates of change on issues of poverty and hunger throughout our world. I would encourage all people to visit our organization and get a sense of the possibilities in being advocates for the common good within our Bread for the World: new to advocacy page.
Getting to know your congressional representative is a key element in becoming advocates of social change. We are called to engage in political participation and the youth must be encouraged to take part in this civic responsibility. Our Bread for the World Offering of Letters campaign is a way to coordinate congressional letter writing on issues of poverty and hunger. Writing letters to your congressional representative is a vital aspect of being advocates. Below is a video by the social think tank TED where former Mayor and activist Omar Ahmad discusses the role that constituent correspondence has with influencing legislators.