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As I prepare for Christmas this year and reflect on its promise of peace and goodwill, I remember the members of a farming community in Cotuí, Dominican Republic, which the Jesuit-run Centro Montalvo accompanies. When I visited them, they were keeping a peaceful vigil just outside of a mining site, to protest the fact that the Pueblo Viejo mine had made their source of water undrinkable and the land so contaminated that they could no longer grow their crops or feed their animals.
Some armed men had come at night to destroy their small post where they had kept their peaceful protest; they had also cut down the tree which had given the protesters shade from the sun, to ensure they would not come back. Undeterred, the members of the community moved their post down the road. This community is determined to make real God’s promise to bring on earth peace and goodwill among people.
The Gospel for this much-awaited season of Christ’s birth reminds us that peace and goodwill among people
is not only possible. It is a promise. It is a promise that I believe will come to fruition if we, as St. Ignatius oncesaid, “Act as if everything depended on you; trust as if everything depended on God.” The farming community in Cotuí understands this message perfectly.
The call to peace is urgent. The ongoing conflicts in Ukraine, Ethiopia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iran, to name only a few, have forced millions to flee a: over 7.6 million Ukrainians have registered for temporary protection across Europe, and in Yemen, the eight-year-old conflict has spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises with around 17.4 million people in need of food assistance, according to UNICEF.
The call to peace is urgent because against the backdrop of armed conflict, our planet is also dealing with an ongoing climate emergency that is only expected to get worse. Ethiopia has about 2.7 million internally displaced people because of armed conflict and natural disasters, including an unrelenting drought. Closer to home, thousands of people were evacuated, others lost homes and property in September as Hurricane Fiona slammed into Eastern Canada. Climate experts warn that this could be a harbinger of our future as climate change worsens.
Our partners in Asia, Africa, and Latin America who are still reeling from the aftershocks of the Covid-19 pandemic have not been spared from these crises. Their response however is to bring “on earth peace, goodwill among people”.
In India, Lok Manch, a people’s platform supported by the Jesuits, is making real the promise of peace and goodwill by helping poor and marginalized communities who lack access to food, housing, health, and education. They help them build climate-resistant communities and safeguard their forests.
Jesuit-run Centro Montalvo, in the Dominican Republic, helps fulfill the promise of peace and goodwill, by supporting communities affected by mining companies that displace people from their land, destroy their natural resources, and violate their human rights. Economic support, awareness raising and community organizing empower people and promote peace, justice, and care for creation.
Jesuit-run Radio Progreso and ERIC (Reflection, Investigation and Communications Team) builds peace on earth and goodwill among people, by speaking out for the most excluded communities who experience poverty and inequality in Honduras, and by making their voice heard even in the face of violence.
Our Jesuit partners and the communities they work with understand the promise of Christmas for peace and goodwill. It is a call to each one of us to love our neighbour and to work so that everyone can live with dignity.
Your continuing support for CJI projects has illustrated how positive change, though hard-won, is possible. In Zambia, the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre, a Jesuit-run farming training institute, has trained hundreds of small-scale farmers – both men and women – to become organic farmers. Their livelihoods have improved, and they are helping to address climate change.
We count on your loyal and generous support, so that this Christmas, we will come closer to achieving God’s good news of peace and goodwill for all people.
With gratitude, I wish you a happy, peace-filled Christmas!
“The night is far gone; the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness
and put on the armour of light.”
– Romans 13:12
“In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.”
– Psalm 72:7
“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus.”
– Isaiah 35:1
“The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.”
– Psalms 24:1