Facing Our Fears and Reconnecting the World in this Lent of 2024


Last year, Justice and Peace Europe decided on the biennial nature of its concerted action and formulated it directly: "Facing Our Fears and Reconnecting the World." "Do not be afraid" is our starting point. These are not new words from Justice and Peace. They are the words of Jesus in the Gospel (Matthew 10, 26). They are also the words of Saint John Paul II. They are the words with which he greeted the whole world at the beginning of his pontificate and which he frequently repeated, words that I heard him say on Hill of Joy during World Youth Day in 1989.

In the last hundred years, fear has too many times run through the soul of humanity. The First World War overwhelmed us with its unprecedented levels of destruction and barbarism. The Second World War far exceeded the destructive levels of the first. In the sixties, the conflict in Cuba once again opened us up to the possibility of nuclear war. The end of the Soviet Union seemed to herald a new era of peace for humanity. But neither the end of collectivist regimes nor the purported Arab Spring has brought us the longed-for peace. Today, all wars overwhelm us, especially those closest to us: Ukraine, Israel, Palestine, Armenia.

Justice and Peace calls on us to face our fears. European Justice and Peace commissions are committed to facing our fears. Faith gives us reasons for hope and for activating charity, to reconnect the world. And faith is not alone in this mission.

We know serious and profound reasons to face our fears and reconnect the world. After the First World War, the first universal institution was born, the League of Nations. And the International Labour Organization was born to remind us that there is no peace without social justice. After the Second World War, the United Nations was born, and the first agreements were signed, giving birth to the European Union. None of these human institutions are perfect, none is the definitive guarantee of justice and peace on Earth. But they are instruments to face our fears and reconnect our world.

Today, there is an urgent need to advocate for a global political authority that surpasses the limitations of the United Nations, following the line established by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (2011). Today, we must continue to advocate for the prohibition of nuclear weapons and the full enforcement not only of International Humanitarian Law but of all International Law.

We need greater international cooperation, not only among states. We must extend the networks that communicate within Europe and from Europe to the rest of the continents. We must keep our eyes open to the realities of our world and, as Luis Zurdo said, build bridges.

Spanish Commission for Justice and Peace continues to commit to building networks inside and outside the Church: to fight for human rights in the Federation of Human Rights of Spain, to work for development cooperation in the Coordinator of NGO, to advocate for the guarantee of the rights of those seeking asylum, refuge, and hospitality with Migrants with Rights, to safeguard the dignity of victims of trafficking in Weaving Networks against Trafficking, to bet on evangelical cooperation in Connect Yourself for Justice, and to promote decent work in Church for Decent Work.

We need to look at reality with open eyes, as Pope Francis indicates in his Lenten Message:

"If our celebration of Lent is to be concrete, the first step is to desire to open our eyes to reality. When the Lord calls out to Moses from the burning bush, he immediately shows that he is a God who sees and, above all, hears: "I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them upout of thatland to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey" (Ex 3:7-8). Today too, the cry of so many of our oppressed brothers and sisters rises to heaven. Let us ask ourselves: Do we hear that cry? Does it trouble us? Does it move us? All too many things keep us apart from each other, denying the fraternity that, from the beginning, binds us to one another".

Perhaps one of the greatest enemies in this task is polarization and fake news. We cannot open our social networks in order to build new walls, to demonize those who think differently. We cannot create new sanhedrins to condemn the innocent and bury truth and hope. The mission of Jesus Christ is at stake.

We trust in our spirituality, which connects us not only with the infinite but with all of humanity and all of creation. Truth and human dignity are magnificent resources to face our fears. In union with popular movements, we can demand land, work, and housing.

During this Lent and throughout 2024, Justice and Peace Europe will continue its long-term work on international social justice and much-needed institutional reforms. It will pay special attention to social fears that are ignored but it will also deconstruct the fears and anxieties that can be instrumentalized to manipulate European citizens. Member commissions will decide and propose acts and places where honest and truthful exchanges about fears and their consequences can take place at national, European, and international levels.

Javier Alonso, GCJP President