Pope Benedict Urges Action on the Horn of Africa
A Somali woman hands her severely malnourished child to a medical officer of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), an active regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the United Nations. Somalia is affected by a severe drought that has ravaged large swaths of the Horn of Africa, leaving an estimated 11 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Photo credit:UN Photo/Stuart Price
The Pope’s Urbi et Orbi (“To the City of Rome and to the World) message is a traditional Catholic Christmas reflection from the Pope to the worldwide Christian community. This reflection not only reminds us of the spiritual and religious meaning of Christmas, but also delivers a powerful social message. Here is a link to that message and a BBC article on the message.
Through this brief message, Pope Benedict reminds us of the mystery of the incarnation as a way that God, through Christ, fully experiences the human condition. Christ experienced our suffering and our injustice from his homeless birth to his capital execution. In this way God shares in our social injustices and reminds us that God's infinite love for all humanity and creation will persevere with us as it has with Christ Jesus. Pope Benedict said:
The answer to our cry which God gave in Jesus infinitely transcends our expectations, achieving a solidarity which cannot be human alone, but divine. Only the God who is love, and the love which is God, could choose to save us in this way.
How will this redemptive love be played out? How will God vindicate the injustices that we experience? Through us as co-workers who share in the divinity of Christ. The mystery of the incarnation is not just about Christ, it’s also about us. Athanasius and St. Augustine reminded the early Christian community about this with the famous dictum, “God became human so that humans might become God.” In accepting God’s love and invitation to share in God's divine dignity, we are called to present that love and dignity to all of God’s people in this world. However, in a special way we are called to present this love and dignity to those who suffer injustice in our world.
Thus, Pope Benedict raises the Christmas mystery of God’s love within the context of our social injustice. He cites the violence in Syria, the Middle East, and North Africa, and the devastating flooding in southeast Asia. In particular, Pope Benedict urges us to respond to the famine in the Horn of Africa:
Together let us ask God’s help for the peoples of the Horn of Africa, who suffer from hunger and food shortages, aggravated at times by a persistent state of insecurity. May the international community not fail to offer assistance to the many displaced persons coming from that region and whose dignity has been sorely tried.
These are issues that we must certainly be attentive to in our prayer life, but we cannot stop there. We as citizens can influence our government to be an agent of peace and justice to our suffering world. As people of faith, we are urged to do so. In this way, we reciprocate that divine solidarity that Christ achieves for us.
This year, Bread for the World will be protecting and defending international food aid program and poverty-focused development assistance programs. These programs are so vital for areas that have been devastated by famine and flood. As you pray for peace and justice during this upcoming year, please visit our website and be part of the campaign. In this way we can adequately respond as agents of God’s love in a world that is in desperate need of it.
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