Religions for Peace, the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious peace-building coalition, is convening hundreds of religious leaders, practitioners, scholars, government agencies and foundations in New York City on 11 December to co-develop global peace-building priorities for the next five years.
“When religious communities work together for the common good, they are a powerful force for peace and development,” said Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, Secretary General, a.i. of Religions for Peace. “Today there is greater need than ever before for communities of faith to act on our spiritual authority and deep community connections to advance peace and development. This is why we are convening religious leaders from all over the world to co-develop priorities in multi-religious peace-building for the coming years.”
The event will be open to the press on 11 December and religious leaders from more than 50 countries in every region of the world will strategically determine priorities for the future of the renowned organization. Themes discussed will include climate solutions through the protection of indigenous peoples, overcoming gender-based violence, procuring the universal right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and philanthropy’s role in boosting interfaith peace-building efforts.
Foreign workers are gathering their families, packing their bags and leaving Brunei, where a ban on celebrating Christmas has been enforced since 2014 by an authoritarian regime happy to impose stiff penalties for any breaches of the law. Fearing Muslims would be led astray and convert to Christianity, the sultan of Brunei imposed full Sharia law in April, a culmination of an all-imposing Islamic legal system that was introduced step by step over the last six years.
In a move that bears striking similarities to Biblical stories from the Roman occupation of the Holy Land, Christians are only allowed to celebrate Christmas within the privacy of their own homes and only after they have notified authorities.
“The people in Muslim-dominated Brunei are quite tolerant and very easy to get along with, but the government is fearful of outside religions,” said one Western expatriate who fears Brunei’s harsh defamation laws and declined to give his name. Increasingly, foreign Christians working in Brunei spend Christmas time outside the Islamic country and return only in the new year.”
From the womb of Mother Church, the incarnate Son of God is born anew this night. His name is Jesus, which means: “God saves”. The Father, eternal and infinite Love, has sent him into the world not to condemn the world but to save it (cf. Jn 3:17). The Father has given him to us with great mercy. He has given him to everyone. He has given him forever. The Son is born, like a small light flickering in the cold and darkness of the night… Jesus the light of the world.
This is why the prophet cries out: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1). There is darkness in human hearts, yet the light of Christ is greater still. There is darkness in personal, family and social relationships, but the light of Christ is greater. There is darkness in economic, geopolitical and ecological conflicts, yet greater still is the light of Christ.
May Emmanuel bring light to all the suffering members of our human family. May he soften our often stony and self-centred hearts, and make them channels of his love. May he bring his smile, through our poor faces, to all the children of the world: to those who are abandoned and those who suffer violence. Through our frail hands, may he clothe those who have nothing to wear, give bread to the hungry and heal the sick. Through our friendship, such as it is, may he draw close to the elderly and the lonely, to migrants and the marginalized. On this joyful Christmas Day, may he bring his tenderness to all and brighten the darkness of this world.
Read the full version of His Holiness Pope’s message; http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/urbi/documents/papa-francesco_20191225_urbi-et-orbi-natale.html