The World Day of Peace
True peace is born in people’s hearts. This fundamental truth shone in the life of the great humanist of the 20th century Raoul Follereau who during the cruel World War II took the initiative to establish the World Day of Peace – special time that would let each man realise that we were called to build creatively relationships between people. It is true that the history of mankind is full of dates of battles and conquests but as Raoul Follereau said we would learn to live human lives finally, i.e. lives not against one another but with one another. The civilisation built on the Greek wisdom, the Roman law and the Christian religion teaches us that principle. Christians who cannot forget the words of Jesus Christ uttered in the Sermon on the Mount, ‘’Happy the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God’ (Matthew 5:9) are especially obliged to build peace. This special beatitude, raising us to the dignity of sons of God, obliges us to be always and everywhere active builders of peace.
What is peace?
The end of war activities does not mean peace, which was confirmed by the periods of the so-called cold war, war of nerves, mutual accusations, provocations and suspicions. Despite various appeals and messages directed to the great authorities of the world the initiative of Raoul Follereau was not welcomed for over twenty years. The condition without war activities in Europe was accepted with satisfaction although nobody felt secure during those years. When finally Follereau appealed to young people in the world to support his programme to build a civilisation of peace actively, the agreed sign being the World Day of Peace celebrated once a year, several million letters from young people, who understood the necessity to change the course of history focused on confrontation perfectly well, were sent to the UN headquarters from all continents. Then Follereau calculated that if once a year we spent for charities and humanitarian aid the amount we spent on armaments we could heal all lepers and feed all children that were dying of hunger somewhere. But neither the great powers nor small countries dared to agree to take such a gesture. The UN discussed the proposal of Raoul Follereau and in 1968 Pope Paul VI announced the World Day of Peace that was to fall on the most meaningful day of the calendar, namely on 1 January. And again the Catholic Church responded to one of the most difficult challenges of the contemporary world. Since that time the successors of St Peter directed their annual special messages that are important elements of the social teaching of the Church.
What is war?
Every war is some defeat. It reveals weakness and immaturity of man who cannot solve social problems in a worthy way and without violence. Despite victorious battles one must sit at the table sooner or later; one must talk because one must live for oneself. In order to do that one needs a deep formation, a true school of wisdom and humility, which bears justice, which is not written in treaties and agreements but in man’s heart. Treaties are formal frameworks, which our will must fulfil. Otherwise they will be useless documents. That’s why the teaching of the Church concerning peace goes beyond the order of current politics, reaching deeper to the sources on which one can build a fair and happy future for all nations.
The meetings of the representatives of various religions in Assisi, organised by Pope John Paul II, completed the initiative launched by Raoul Follereau. It has turned out that peace is so close to man’s heart that despite considerable differences in understanding the world, man and God one can and should seek ways to reach people’s hearts and minds, people who cannot understand that the only chance for normal development of human beings is peace, which constitutes the fundamental element of the construction called civilisation of love.