EDITORIAL: Words of Hope

Looking back at 2022 there is much to be thankful for, much to be concerned about, yet reason for hope.

Here, in the words of two presidents, Joe Biden and Michael D. Higgins, is a picture of the inevitably complex weave of our world at a time of year when we give the state of our world the closest attention.

In both cases the presidential Christmas message has been edited for space reasons.

First, President Biden: The Christmas story is at the heart of the Christmas — Christian faith.  But the message of hope, love, peace, and joy, they’re also universal.

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It speaks to all of us, whether we’re Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, or any other faith, or no faith at all.  It speaks to all of us as human beings who are here on this Earth to care for one another, to look out for one another, to love one another.

The message of Christmas is always important, but it’s especially important through tough times, like the ones we’ve been through the past few years.

The pandemic has taken so much from us.  We’ve lost so much time with one another.  We’ve lost so many people, people we loved.  Over a million lives lost in America alone. That’s a million empty chairs breaking hearts in homes all across the country.

Our politics has gotten so angry, so mean, so partisan.  And too often we see each other as enemies, not as neighbors; as Democrats or Republicans, not as fellow Americans. We’ve become too divided.

But as tough as these times have been, if we look a little closer, we see bright spots all across the country: the strength, the determination, the resilience that’s long defined America.

We’re surely making progress. Things are getting better. COVID no longer controls our lives. Our kids are back in school. People are back to work. Americans are building again, innovating again, dreaming again.

So my hope this Christmas season is that we take a few moments of quiet reflection and find that stillness in the heart of Christmas, really look at each other, not as Democrats or Republicans, not as members of “Team Red” or “Team Blue,” but as who we really are: fellow Americans. Fellow human beings worthy of being treated with dignity and respect.

I hope this Christmas season marks a fresh start for our nation, because there is so much that unites us as Americans, so much more that unites us than divides us. We’re truly blessed to live in this nation. And I truly hope we take the time to look out, look out for one another. God bless you all.  And may God protect our troops.  

Now, a Christmas message from President Michael D. Higgins.

As we move from the shadows of Covid-19 and our necessary adjustments to what was required, may I, as President of Ireland, mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, send you my warmest wishes for a peaceful and a Happy Christmas and New Year.

We Irish can understand the experience of Christmas far from home. At the turn of the last century, over half of the people who had been born in Ireland were living abroad. This fact, along with the emigration that was to follow during the early decades of the Irish State, have shaped us profoundly as a people – we can, through the experience of our own ancestors, know what it is to be the migrant, to be displaced.

Christmas is a time to renew our commitments to justice. In his ground-breaking encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis, for example, speaks of a “culture of indifference," including how such a “culture of indifference” relates to climate change, a pandemic, of ignoring global issues, global hunger, migrant deaths, increasing militarism...he challenges us all not to avert our gaze from all those who suffer in different ways on our shared planet.

Let our thoughts and our solidarity, too, be with the brave women and men protesting against the suppression and humiliation of women which exists in so many parts of the world, and offer our solidarity and support to those who are calling for an end to gender violence at home and abroad.

May I, in a special way, extend my sympathies this Christmas to the people of Creeslough and all who were bereaved by the terrible tragedy visited on that close-knit community which I had the privilege of visiting at a time of tragedy and grief. I hope this coming year will bring you some space for healing and that, along with your profound sadness, your loved ones can be remembered with appreciation by you for all that was shared with them, your lives together.

May I thank those members of our Defence Forces who will be overseas this Christmas building and supporting peace in many of the more than 60 regions across the world that are currently experiencing conflict. We are all thinking this week of the grief being experienced by the family of Seán Rooney, by the families of those injured in Lebanon, and in particular the family of Shane Kearney. May I assure the women and men of our Defence Forces that your sacrifices for peace are greatly appreciated by the people of Ireland.

As we look towards seasons of renewal and flourishing, let us do so in solidarity, resolving to craft together a shared future defined by compassion, care, inclusion and equality, a society whose values embody the vision of the brave men and women who helped to realise the foundation of our Republic and whose centenary we continue to mark. May I wish each and every one of you, wherever you may be, a peaceful and happy Christmas. Nollaig Shona daoibh go léir, is beir gach beannacht do’n bliain nua is don todhcaí.