Message on Day of Prayer for Peace

In his annual letter to all parishes in Scotland for a Day of Prayer for Peace (Sunday 2 January) Bishop William Nolan has contrasted the vast sums spent on military spending with the millions of displaced people facing persecution and poverty.

Bishop Nolan, Bishop of Galloway and President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland Justice and Peace Commission, has called on Catholics to “recognise the dignity of our fellow human beings, particularly those who are strangers to us”.

Read the full letter below.

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My Dear Brothers and Sisters,

2nd January 2022

Every year we begin the new year by praying for justice and for peace. And each year it seems that justice and peace are beyond our grasp, yet ever more necessary than the year before.

As we look around us, we see a world where justice and peace are an elusive dream for so many but not a reality.

Looking at the problems we face today, it is clear that many of these problems have as their root cause human weakness, human failing, and human sinfulness.

Much of the environmental crisis that confronts us just now is caused by our misuse of the world’s resources, our pollution of the air and the seas, and our exploitation of the earth without a concern for the consequences. And in so many countries we see the suffering caused by warfare and violence.

Is it not strange that we human beings spend over $1.9 trillion* every year in global military spending? So much money spent defending ourselves from our fellow human beings! What does that say about the state of our humanity?

We need to recognise that the core of the problem lies within ourselves, within the human heart. Among the consequences is that we live in a world where the number of forcibly displaced persons is more than it has ever been. 82.4 million people worldwide** have had to leave their homes and move elsewhere, often to other countries, as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or climate change. Hardly surprising that some of these people try to reach our shores.

Hardly surprising that those fleeing oppression or poverty take the risk of travelling in flimsy boats across the Channel longing to get here, to what they hope is the Promised Land.

We pray every year for peace and for justice. We need to pray fervently not just today but every day, so that the message of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, will touch human hearts; so that we will recognise the dignity of our fellow human beings, particularly those who are strangers to us, particularly those who are poor, particularly those who call out to us for help.

May our prayer go hand in hand with our actions so that justice and peace may no longer be just a dream but become a reality in our world, in our lives and in the lives of our fellow human beings.

Wishing you every blessing in the year ahead,

+William Nolan Bishop of Galloway

President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland Justice and Peace Commission

*Source: www.sipri.org/media/press-release/2021/world-military-spending-rises-almost-2-trillion-2020

** Forced Displacement in 2020, source: www.unhcr.org/flagship-reports/globaltrends/ 

Praying today for victims and survivors of human trafficking

Today the Church marks St Josephine Bakhita’s feast day, and is an opportunity to pray especially for victims and survivors of human trafficking.

Bakhita’s story echoes that of our sisters and brothers who endure the tragedy of trafficking in our modern world.

She was born in Darfur in Sudan in 1869, and was so traumatised by her experiences as a young child that she forgot her own name. Those who trafficked her gave her the name Bakhita, or ‘fortunate one’ which is particularly ironic.

St Josephine was abducted at the age of nine. In some of her own words: “I was nine years old. I was walking in the fields with my friends, a bit far away from home. Two strangers appeared from behind a fence.

One said to my friend: ‘Let the small girls go into the forest to pick me some fruits. You continue walking, we’ll catch up with you soon.’ His plan was to fool my friend so he could kidnap me and she would not be there to tell.

"I did what I was told. Once we were in the forest, two men came from behind. One grabbed me vigorously. The other pulled out a knife and held it to my side. ‘If you cry, you’ll die! Follow us!’ I was terrified.”

Eventually, after being sold from slave-trader to slave-trader some six times, she received support from the Canossian Sisters and the Patriarch of Venice. Having witnessed and experienced the love and compassion of Christ, she asked to be baptised and took on the name “Josephine Margaret” for her baptism and confirmation in 1890.

Given her plight, she is recognised as the patron saint of victims and survivors of human trafficking.

The Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh’s Commission for Caritas, Justice and Peace is actively looking into opportunities to support the work of organisations who seek to tackle this crucial issue.

Today, let’s keep those who have endured the horrific experiences of trafficking, and those who still do, in our prayers.

For further information or resources, please contact Fr Basil Clark, Vicar Episcopal for Caritas, Justice and Peace at VECaritas@staned.org.uk or Callum Timms at Callum.Timms@staned.org.uk