Today is marked, the world over, as the Christmas Day, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ.
Pope Francis in his traditional Christmas described the birth as a source of hope, and “this Child, Jesus, was born ‘to us’ … without any borders, privileges or exclusions.”
Speaking at the Hall of Benediction of St. Peter’s Basilica, the upper area just behind the central loggia where he would usually have delivered his message, Francis said “we can all call one another brothers and sisters” even as we hail from every continent, every language and culture, with our own identities and differences.
He said this fundamental reality is something we can all build on to address the monumental challenges we are facing at this moment in history, such as the ecological crisis and serious economic and social imbalances worsened by the Coronavirus pandemic.
“The unity we need and seek as brothers and sisters, God has made possible, the Pope said, “by giving us his Son Jesus”, a fraternity that is “grounded in genuine love”, where we can encounter others who are different, feel compassion for their sufferings, and draw near and care for them even if they “do not belong to my family, my ethnic group or my religion.”
“The Pope prayed that the Child of Bethlehem might help us open our hearts to help the vulnerable, the sick, those unemployed and affected by the pandemic, as well as women have suffered domestic violence during the lockdowns. He also called for a spirit of international cooperation starting with health care to ensure all will have access to vaccines and treatment.
“In everyone, I see reflected the face of God, and in those who suffer, I see the Lord pleading for my help. I see him in the sick, the poor, the unemployed, the marginalized, the migrant and the refugee.”
“Looking at the lights and shadows in our world, the Pope offered his prayers and encouraged all people to offer theirs to remember the many children worldwide who are victims of war, especially in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. He called on courageous efforts to work for peace there and throughout the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean, and that the Infant Jesus might heal the wounds of the beloved Syrian people and bring comfort to Iraqis and those working for reconciliation, recalling especially the Yazidis who have suffered greatly.”
He prayed for peace in Libya and that Israelis and Palestinians to regain mutual trust to continue dialogue to overcome grievances, and encouraged the Lebanese to keep hope alive and for leaders to work for reforms so that the country can persevere in its vocation of freedom and peaceful coexistence.
The Pope called for support to the international community in efforts to continue the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, eastern Ukraine. And in areas where armed conflicts and humanitarian crisis persist, he remembered Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Cameroon and for their suffering to finally end.
The Pope remembered the American continent, especially affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and for a calming of tensions in Chile and Venezuela. He recalled the victims of natural disasters, especially in the Philippines and Vietnam. He noted the suffering of the Rohingya people and that they might find respite and hope.
According to him, “Despite the great difficulties we are facing, the Pope noted that the Christ child “tells us that pain and evil are not the final word”, and he remembered as examples those who “instead work to bring hope, comfort and help to those who suffer and those who are alone.”
Pope Francis sympathized with families that are unable to unite today due to the pandemic, praying that Christmas might help us rediscover “the family as a cradle of life and faith, a place of acceptance and love, dialogue, forgiveness” and “source of peace for all humanity.”
In his message, President Muhammadu Buhari felicitated Christian brothers and sisters in particular and all Nigerians in general on this joyous occasion of Christmas 2020, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ.
“In Christendom, Christmas season represents joy, peace, hope, love, goodwill and imminent salvation. These worthy values which Jesus’ Advent symbolize, are very much needed in our country at this time when we are confronted with diverse challenges like rising spate of armed banditry, kidnappings, insurgency, economic recession and upsurge of COVID-19 infections.”
According to him, “I wish to, therefore, enjoin fellow compatriots to appropriate the hope that comes with Christmas and reinvest trust in this Administration’s determination and unwavering commitment to restore peace, security and prosperity to our dear country.
“Under my watch, the Federal Government will continue to provide the needed support within available resources to the gallant members of our armed forces and security agencies as they confront threats to our citizens. While I commend them for their efforts so far, I urge them to do more to checkmate increasing incidents of security threats especially in the northern parts of the country as well as the entire nation in varying degrees. Their display of tact, camaraderie, and expertise that led to the recent return of abducted schoolboys of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, will remain a milestone in the annals of the country.
The President noted “For me, providing security for all residents in the country remains an article of faith. It formed a vital segment of this Administration’s three-point agenda right from inception, and we must follow through with it.
“I cannot in good conscience shirk this cardinal responsibility to secure lives and property. I feel pained each time a breach of peace and security occurs in any part of the nation. I am even more distressed when our youths, especially school children, are the targets and victims of mindless and malevolent elements in the society. As a parent, I share the emotional torture and agony parents and guardians go through whenever their children and wards fall into the cruel hands of these enemies of decency and good society.
“I plead with fellow compatriots to give our military and other security agencies more time, cooperation and support by volunteering credible intelligence/information on activities of armed bandits, insurgents and other criminal elements within their communities in order to put an end to this blight on our security landscape.
“To be sure, the problems are beyond the simplistic options being bandied around. We shall remain focused on following the complex, multi-dimensional route to reducing the incidents of insecurity to the barest minimum. Our people must be free to live and move without let or hindrance. This is crucial not only to enthroning an atmosphere of calm and social cohesion, but for the economy to grow.
“Let us use this season of goodwill and joy to renew our faith in the ability of this Administration to make a lasting difference in the lives of our hard-working people. Our Social Intervention measures and other economic policies are already yielding positive results even at modest rates.
“We shall deliberately target our youths so that they will not fall into the trap of unpatriotic elements to foment social disobedience leading to avoidable loss of lives and property.
“Let me reiterate that while the right to peaceful association and protest is guaranteed under our laws, this Administration will not fold its arms and watch protests however well-intended, degenerate into wanton killings of law enforcement and other security personnel as well as destruction of private and national assets.
“It is gladdening to note that the various schemes and components of the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) are being implemented faithfully to support micro-small businesses. I am particularly delighted that artisans, small-time transporters, traders and farmers are the main beneficiaries as we continue to provide safety nets to the most vulnerable members of our society as well as business owners to mitigate the harsh economic environment occasioned by COVID-19.
“In spite of dwindling national revenue worsened by the pandemic, we will do all that is required to fully implement the 2021 Budget of Economic Recovery and Resilience. We are optimistic that all things being equal, we should be able to exit recession at the shortest possible time.
“There is every indication that our country is already experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 infection. As we celebrate Christmas with families and friends, I urge all citizens and residents to adhere strictly to the non-pharmaceutical prevention guidelines of regular hand-washing, wearing masks and social/physical distancing with a view to mitigating the spread of this devastating virus.
“While national and state institutions are trying their best, we must take individual responsibility and resist the strong temptation of compliance-fatigue by following the recommended protocols put in place by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and beat the ravaging pandemic.