IN his first message for the World Day of Peace on January 1, 2014, Pope Francis has aptly chosen the theme: “Fraternity, the foundation and pathway of peace.” At first blush, one easily guesses that the Pontiff did not lift this from a theological treatise but from his many years of living fraternity with people of all walks of life in the streets, in public buses and market places back home in Buenos Aires, Argentina where he was a people’s pastor, especially with the poor and the marginalized.
In the mold of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta who was indiscriminate in charity and fraternity, the erstwhile Cardinal Mario Bergoglio has defined “fraternity” early on as an irrepressible longing “which draws us to fellowship with others and enables us to see them not as enemies or rivals, but as brothers and sisters to be accepted and embraced.” The family is the cradle of this human quality. He points out that “the family is the wellspring of all fraternity, and as such it is the foundation and the first pathway to peace, since, by its vocation, it is meant to spread its love to the world around it.”
But in a world where a “globalization of indifference” is an old normal, fraternity just like peace is quixotic. The economic ethic of nations and the foreign policies of the powerful obviously do not have fraternity or, seriously, peace, in their lexicon. Which is why, the global economic imbalance, the worsening poverty in many nations, the threat of war and escalating problem of security and terrorism had become the easy characterization of all generations. Globalization, Benedict XVI pointed out, makes us neighbors, but not brothers. “The many situations of inequality, poverty and injustice are signs not only of a profound lack of fraternity, but also of the absence of a culture of solidarity,” says Pope Francis.
The Christian sense of fraternity is founded on a common fatherhood. According to the Holy Father, “It is a fatherhood which effectively generates fraternity, because the love of God, once welcomed, becomes the most formidable means of transforming our lives and relationship with others, opening us to solidarity and to genuine sharing.”
Taken in this context, fraternity becomes a wellspring that can be the foundation and pathway to peace; a prerequisite in alleviating global poverty; a fundamental ethic that will trigger an inclusive world economy; a basic factor that may stave off war and terrorism; and a sustainable principle that will help preserve and cultivate nature.