In a few days, the world will welcome a new year, namely 2022. With the start of this new year, the world will heave a sigh of relief. At last, the year 2020 is over with hopes that all this year's disasters that have wreaked havoc on various walks of life will be over.
The year 2021 has been rampant with horrible news that brought several world peoples on the brink of hopelessness, despair, with a future that seems bereft of any promising changes in the offing.
One of the major events in 2021 that brought gargantuan damage to various sectors of life at the global level is Corona virus that has developed several variants which seem to be resistant to various forms of vaccines.
In spite of the gloomy images reflected in 2021, it is important to show the bright side of the image, namely His Holiness Pope Francis' trips that emanate love, peace, brotherhood, and common living.
A leading trip conducted by Pope Francis was his visit to Iraq on March 5-8, 2021. The Pope visited Baghdad, the plain of Ur which is linked to the memory of Abraham, the city of Erbil, as well as Mosul and Qaraqosh in the plain of Nineveh. He also made a landmark visit to Najaf where he met with Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and with whom he issued a joint statement denouncing extremism.
Pope Francis also visited Hungary and Slovakia on September 12 to 15, 2021. In Budapest he celebrated a Holy Mass on the occasion of the closing Mass for the 52nd Eucharistic Congress.
Another landmark trip is Pope Francis' visit to Greece and Cyprus on December 2-6. During the visit, the Pope met with His Beatitude Archbishop Leronymos II of Athens and All Greece who said that they are now meeting again "to share the joy of fraternity" and to view the Mediterranean as a "sea that brings peoples together". He also met with the Holy Synod of the Cypriot Orthodox Church at Nicosia's Orthodox Cathedral of St. Barnabas who said, “We have not to isolate ourselves from each other. It is also a very important act not to be isolated, but to live fraternity as Christians.” On Christian unity, he added, "The unity of the Christians in the world today is very important, not only to give the message of the faith but also to face many, many social issues, or example the pandemic, the problem of the refugees, the secularization of society.”
Another interesting event is the inauguration of the Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia on Thursday, December 9, 2021, by Sheikh Abdullah Ibn Hamad Al Khalifa, representing the King of Bahrain Hamad Ibn Isa Al Khalifa. Reacting to this step, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle commended the Kingdom of Bahrain’s commitment to encouraging multi-ethnic and religious diversity. Furthermore, on Thursday, December 16, a civil ceremony was held to mark the opening of the Church of St. John the Baptist in the UAE city of Ruwais, just a week after the inauguration of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia in Bahrain. The church was built on a plot of land in the Al-Ruwais residential complex donated by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Ibn Zayed Al-Nahyan and the monarch’s representative in Al-Dhafra.
In a relevant article written by Director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Jordan Fr. Dr. Rif'at Bader, he said, "We view this matter with great significance. In the first place it reflects the atmosphere of tolerance and religious freedom that existed in the Arab Gulf states for a long time. We also notice that this 'race' among the Gulf states has become noticeable which is a positive thing."
It is also to be admitted that the year 2021 witnessed a deterioration of the situation of the Christians in the Middle East with Christians in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon accelerating efforts to emigrate by looking for safe havens that ensure their children a better future at a time when they have been suffering from economic hardships and failure to meet the needs of life. Christian charity organizations have reacted precipitately been massing efforts to provide a helping hand particularly with regards to the Catholic schools in Lebanon that have been pummeled by financial shortages.
On December 31, the world will turn a new leaf. It is a new year engulfed with hopes and prayers for days to come that restore peace to humanity and ensure the peoples of the Middle East the emergence of lights of hope that relieve people of their suffering. The world needs genuine peace brought about by the Prince of Peace, Lord Jesus Christ. Once divine peace prevails, then all obstacles standing in the way towards progress and prosperity will definitely be eliminate.
We pray for peace in 2022 saying:
Lord Jesus, we thank You that You are with us, that You are in us. Resolutions might come in one year and go out the other. Open our ears this year, so that we can hear You and enjoy You at every junction, when You tell us to turn right or left. Restore peace in our hearts, minds, homes, and homelands because Your peace is the only genuine peace that we seek. Amen