Friday, October 12, 2007

Prize for Peace, Prize of Faith

At 11am Oslo time (1000GMT, 5am in the East), the Norwegian Nobel Committee will announce this year's winner of, arguably, the world's most prestigious honor: the Prize intended by its benefactor to honor the work of the world's "champions of peace."

While the list of Nobel Peace Laureates is dominated by familiar figures from the world of politics and statesmanship, in recent decades a cleric and a religious have each been given the award -- and, just as importantly, the global stage that comes with it.

The church has long found one of the optimal expressions of what it believes in its ability to serve and, thus, be seen consistently as the friend of the people and, even more crucially, the voice of the voiceless. In both these cases, the honorees -- who, it should be noted, were drawn from the places where spiritual nourishment is merely the first ecclesial responsibility toward the flock -- were drawn from the top shelf of that tradition.

In 1996, amid what had been termed the "forgotten conflict" of East Timor -- the former Portugese protectorate that had become occupied by Indonesia and overtaken by civil war -- the Nobel went to two of the now-independent land's chief advocates of the responsible fight for freedom: the political leader Jose Ramos-Horta (currently the East Timorese president), and the head of the church on the semi-island, Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo SDB.

In his acceptance speech -- given, per tradition, in Oslo on the 10 December anniversary of Nobel's death -- Belo asked "What reasons, brought the Catholic Bishop of East Timor to be here in the presence of this assembly?"
I come from a social context that is already known to your Excellencies, where, due to circumstances, the aspirations and desires of the people are limited.

Taking the words from Terentius: "Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto". (Terentius 1, 1,25).

As man, as human being, I cannot remain indifferent in face of what concerns man.

As a member of a people, I have to share the destiny of the people, taking upon myself completely this mandate, knowing the risks that such an attitude will involve. Striving for the defense of the rights of all peoples is not only the privilege of those guiding the destiny of the people or those enjoying lofty positions in society, but it is the duty of everyone whatever rank or status.

As a member of the Church, I take upon myself the mission of enlightening and the denouncing of all human situations which are in disagreement with the Christian concept and contrary to the teaching of the Church concerning all mankind.

The Catholic Bishop is a pastor of a part of God's people. His specific mission is spiritual. Such a mission is incumbent upon him basically as a dispenser of spiritual resources for the salvation of persons and for consolidating them in faith in Jesus Christ.

But mankind is not limited to a spiritual dimension, one should be saved as a whole, human and spiritual. In this aspect, any Catholic Bishop shall never be indifferent when a people's possibilities for human realization, in all dimensions, are not respected.

So the Nobel Peace Prize, attributed to a Catholic Bishop, is not homage to one person but also basically the gratitude for the encouragement that the Catholic Church has developed over the centuries in defense and promotion of the rights of human beings.

The teachings of the Second Vatican Council in Gaudium et Spes, states: "The Church thinks that she will respond to the deep desires of peoples, showing its final hope, preaching freedom, dignity of conscience and rights, that is just, in God's plan of salvation".

The duty given to the Church is not socio-political in nature but religious. And thus it is characteristic of the Church, a wellspring of enlightenment and energy, to empower and contribute to the strengthening of human society....

It is known to your Excellencies, the efforts of the Church concerning the suffering of the people of East Timor over the last twentyone years. As Bishop of this people, I regard the Nobel Peace Prize not as something to merely esteem one person but as the rightful homage for the work done by the Catholic Church in East Timor, defending the inalienable rights of her people.

"Yet you have made him little less than a god, you have crowned him with glory and beauty" (Psalm 8,6).

For the composer of this psalm, human dignity is taking root in his divine vocation, created by God.

This is my belief and knowledge about mankind which guides me and impels me as my conscience considers how I should act.

However, addressing this distinguished Assembly with beliefs and concepts about mankind may be quite humanistic. But I do believe for sure that among us we have something in common, that is we affirm that the human being is the subject of all concept and human activities. We declare that one's value and dignity does not depend on the individual's belief, religion, politics, philosophy, race or color of skin.

Man is a being for freedom. It means that one's realization is complete when capable to decide about one's options and taking responsibility for his or her actions without any kind of intimidation.

Man is a being realized in a community. It means that the social and ethnic group one belongs to is the background for his or her fulfillment.

Man is a being realized when there is a reciprocity of respect. It means that wherever human beings are not respected in their elementary rights by those in charge or by those responsible in society, as a consequence, we have oppression, slavery, arrogance, arbitrariness, death of individuals and death of a people.

Ladies and Gentlemen, these principles are valid for everybody and they are valid for the Church who also affirms that human dignity is rooted and fulfilled in God Himself.

Persons have been placed in society by God the Creator, but over and above this, each person is called to be united with Him as children of God and participating in God's happiness. Moreover, the Church teaches that if this divine Foundation and the hope for eternal life are missing, human dignity is strongly damaged (GS. 21).

The Catholic Church proclaims Jesus Christ as the great deliverer for all mankind. Indeed, Jesus frees each one from every moral and social slavery, giving back his or her true dignity as a human being.

In making Christ known, the Church reveals to everyone their true situation and calling, since Christ is the head and model of that renewed humanity imbued with that fraternal love, sincerity and spirit of peace, to which everyone aspires (AG. 8).

Your Majesties, Members of the Nobel Committee, my friends from around the world, I am profoundly honored to be before you today to receive the Nobel Prize for Peace. But whatever personal compliment I may receive, I believe that I have received this high tribute not because of who I am or what I have done. I firmly believe that I am here essentially as the voice of the voiceless people of East Timor who are with me today in spirit, if not in person. And what the people want is peace, an end to violence, and respect for their human rights. It is my fervent hope that the 1996 Nobel Prize for Peace will advance these goals.
A Salesian of Don Bosco who oversaw East Timor's sole ecclesiastical circumscription for two decades, Belo, now 59, sought to be relieved of his post months after it won independence in 2002, citing ill health. Following a period of recovery and consultation with the Holy See, he went to the missions in 2004 to labor alongside his confreres in Mozambican capital of Maputo.

The other church-linked winner of the Prize -- 1979's laureate -- needs no introduction to anyone, really: Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The "Saint of the Gutters" had already been introduced to the world thanks to her discovery by the British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge a decade earlier, but the Nobel only served to burnish to the legend of the Missionaries of Charity foundress, propelling her to a cachet that, by the time of her death 18 years later, made the now-blessed nun a universally recognizable, morally credible figure for people of all faiths and backgrounds -- not just for her trademark white sari trimmed in blue, but for her sanctity.

Part of Blessed Teresa's citation for the Prize read thus:
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has considered it right and appropriate, precisely in the [sic] year, in their choice of Mother Teresa, to remind the world of the words spoken by Fridtjof Nansen: "Love of one's neighbour is realistic policy".

As a description of Mother Teresa's life's work we might select the slogan that a previous Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Albert Schweitzer, adopted as the leitmotif for his own work: "Veneration for life".

Over the years the Committee has frequently awarded Nobel's Peace Prize to statesmen, men who have carried out their work under the conditions that obtain in our imperfect world. In the opinion of the Committee they had played a dominant role in bringing to an end wars that had already broken out, seeking peaceful solutions to conflicts, and in preventing fresh outbreaks of war.

The Committee has awarded the prize to idealists who explored avenues leading to a better world, in which war would be meaningless or inconceivable and where traditional statesmanship would be superfluous.

The prize has been awarded to individuals and organisations which, through international humanitarian work and cooperation, have been able to contribute to the brotherhood of nations that Alfred Nobel hoped that his Peace Prize would promote.

The prize has been awarded to scientists and organisations dedicated to the task of tackling and overcoming economic and social privation, not least hunger, which is yet another threat to brotherhood and peace. The Committee has awarded the Peace Prize to champions of equality and fraternity among peoples of different race in every country and in every part of the world.

It has awarded the prize to champions of human rights, of the individual man's and woman's claim to the protection of his or her integrity, body and soul, against the power of the State that is so often abused.

There are many paths we can and must pursue to reach our goals - brotherhood and peace.

In awarding Nobel's Peace Prize for 1979 to Mother Teresa the Committee has posed a focal question that we encounter along all these paths: Can any political, social, or intellectual feat of engineering, on the international or on the national plane, however effective and rational, however idealistic and principled its protagonists may be, give us anything but a house built on a foundation of sand, unless the spirit of Mother Teresa inspires the builders and takes its dwelling in their building?
...and her Nobel Lecture included the following:
As we have gathered here together to thank God for the Nobel Peace Prize I think it will be beautiful that we pray the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi which always surprises me very much - we pray this prayer every day after Holy Communion, because it is very fitting for each one of us, and I always wonder that 4-500 years ago as St. Francis of Assisi composed this prayer that they had the same difficulties that we have today, as we compose this prayer that fits very nicely for us also. I think some of you already have got it - so we will pray together....

Let us thank God for the opportunity that we all have together today, for this gift of peace that reminds us that we have been created to live that peace, and Jesus became man to bring that good news to the poor. He being God became man in all things like us except sin, and he proclaimed very clearly that he had come to give the good news. The news was peace to all of good will and this is something that we all want - the peace of heart - and God loved the world so much that he gave his son - it was a giving - it is as much as if to say it hurt God to give, because he loved the world so much that he gave his son, and he gave him to Virgin Mary, and what did she do with him?

As soon as he came in her life - immediately she went in haste to give that good news, and as she came into the house of her cousin, the child - the unborn child - the child in the womb of Elizabeth, leapt with joy. He was that little unborn child, was the first messenger of peace. He recognised the Prince of Peace, he recognised that Christ has come to bring the good news for you and for me. And as if that was not enough - it was not enough to become a man - he died on the cross to show that greater love, and he died for you and for me and for that leper and for that man dying of hunger and that naked person lying in the street not only of Calcutta, but of Africa, and New York, and London, and Oslo - and insisted that we love one another as he loves each one of us. And we read that in the Gospel very clearly - love as I have loved you - as I love you - as the Father has loved me, I love you - and the harder the Father loved him, he gave him to us, and how much we love one another, we, too, must give each other until it hurts. It is not enough for us to say: I love God, but I do not love my neighbour. St. John says you are a liar if you say you love God and you don't love your neighbour. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbour whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live. And so this is very important for us to realise that love, to be true, has to hurt. It hurt Jesus to love us, it hurt him. And to make sure we remember his great love he made himself the bread of life to satisfy our hunger for his love. Our hunger for God, because we have been created for that love. We have been created in his image. We have been created to love and be loved, and then he has become man to make it possible for us to love as he loved us. He makes himself the hungry one - the naked one - the homeless one - the sick one - the one in prison - the lonely one - the unwanted one - and he says: You did it to me. Hungry for our love, and this is the hunger of our poor people. This is the hunger that you and I must find, it may be in our own home.

I never forget an opportunity I had in visiting a home where they had all these old parents of sons and daughters who had just put them in an institution and forgotten maybe. And I went there, and I saw in that home they had everything, beautiful things, but everybody was looking towards the door. And I did not see a single one with their smile on their face. And I turned to the Sister and I asked: How is that? How is it that the people they have everything here, why are they all looking towards the door, why are they not smiling? I am so used to see the smile on our people, even the dying one smile, and she said: This is nearly every day, they are expecting, they are hoping that a son or daughter will come to visit them. They are hurt because they are forgotten, and see - this is where love comes. That poverty comes right there in our own home, even neglect to love. Maybe in our own family we have somebody who is feeling lonely, who is feeling sick, who is feeling worried, and these are difficult days for everybody. Are we there, are we there to receive them, is the mother there to receive the child?

I was surprised in the West to see so many young boys and girls given into drugs, and I tried to find out why - why is it like that, and the answer was: Because there is no one in the family to receive them. Father and mother are so busy they have no time. Young parents are in some institution and the child takes back to the street and gets involved in something. We are talking of peace. These are things that break peace, but I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing - direct murder by the mother herself. And we read in the Scripture, for God says very clearly: Even if a mother could forget her child - I will not forget you - I have carved you in the palm of my hand. We are carved in the palm of His hand, so close to Him that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God. And that is what strikes me most, the beginning of that sentence, that even if a mother could forget something impossible - but even if she could forget - I will not forget you. And today the greatest means - the greatest destroyer of peace is abortion. And we who are standing here - our parents wanted us. We would not be here if our parents would do that to us. Our children, we want them, we love them, but what of the millions. Many people are very, very concerned with the children in India, with the children in Africa where quite a number die, maybe of malnutrition, of hunger and so on, but millions are dying deliberately by the will of the mother. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today. Because if a mother can kill her own child - what is left for me to kill you and you kill me - there is nothing between. And this I appeal in India, I appeal everywhere: Let us bring the child back, and this year being the child's year: What have we done for the child? At the beginning of the year I told, I spoke everywhere and I said: Let us make this year that we make every single child born, and unborn, wanted. And today is the end of the year, have we really made the children wanted? I will give you something terrifying. We are fighting abortion by adoption, we have saved thousands of lives, we have sent words to all the clinics, to the hospitals, police stations - please don't destroy the child, we will take the child. So every hour of the day and night it is always somebody, we have quite a number of unwedded mothers - tell them come, we will take care of you, we will take the child from you, and we will get a home for the child. And we have a tremendous demand from families who have no children, that is the blessing of God for us. And also, we are doing another thing which is very beautiful - we are teaching our beggars, our leprosy patients, our slum dwellers, our people of the street, natural family planning.

And in Calcutta alone in six years - it is all in Calcutta - we have had 61,273 babies less from the families who would have had, but because they practise this natural way of abstaining, of self-control, out of love for each other. We teach them the temperature meter which is very beautiful, very simple, and our poor people understand. And you know what they have told me? Our family is healthy, our family is united, and we can have a baby whenever we want. So clear - those people in the street, those beggars - and I think that if our people can do like that how much more you and all the others who can know the ways and means without destroying the life that God has created in us.

The poor people are very great people. They can teach us so many beautiful things. The other day one of them came to thank and said: You people who have vowed chastity you are the best people to teach us family planning. Because it is nothing more than self-control out of love for each other. And I think they said a beautiful sentence. And these are people who maybe have nothing to eat, maybe they have not a home where to live, but they are great people.The poor are very wonderful people. One evening we went out and we picked up four people from the street. And one of them was in a most terrible condition - and I told the Sisters: You take care of the other three, I take of this one that looked worse. So I did for her all that my love can do. I put her in bed, and there was such a beautiful smile on her face. She took hold of my hand, as she said one word only: Thank you - and she died.

I could not help but examine my conscience before her, and I asked what would I say if I was in her place. And my answer was very simple. I would have tried to draw a little attention to myself, I would have said I am hungry, that I am dying, I am cold, I am in pain, or something, but she gave me much more - she gave me her grateful love. And she died with a smile on her face. As that man whom we picked up from the drain, half eaten with worms, and we brought him to the home. I have lived like an animal in the street, but I am going to die like an angel, loved and cared for. And it was so wonderful to see the greatness of that man who could speak like that, who could die like that without blaming anybody, without cursing anybody, without comparing anything. Like an angel - this is the greatness of our people. And that is why we believe what Jesus had said: I was hungry - I was naked - I was homeless - I was unwanted, unloved, uncared for - and you did it to me.

I believe that we are not real social workers. We may be doing social work in the eyes of the people, but we are really contemplatives in the heart of the world. For we are touching the Body of Christ 24 hours. We have 24 hours in this presence, and so you and I. You too try to bring that presence of God in your family, for the family that prays together stays together. And I think that we in our family don't need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace - just get together, love one another, bring that peace, that joy, that strength of presence of each other in the home. And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world.

There is so much suffering, so much hatred, so much misery, and we with our prayer, with our sacrifice are beginning at home. Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do. It is to God Almighty - how much we do it does not matter, because He is infinite, but how much love we put in that action. How much we do to Him in the person that we are serving.