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Mother Teresa often said that abortion was the greatest threat to peace in the world. Wherever there is violence against life, whether it be physical, psychological, or emotional violence, there can never be true peace.
Loss of respect for life increases the cycle of violence in society. Every time an abortion happens, there are two victims of violence: the baby and the mother. The promotion of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide supports the idea that the lives of the elderly and sick are "not worth living." This idea, along with a culture that places a priority on personal gratification over helping those in need, encourages those who are younger to view elderly people as burdens, placing them at greater risk for abuse and neglect.
Respect for life is fostered in families, most particularly in a person's childhood experiences and formative years. How important it is to educate children and young people from an early age about their personal dignity, and to awaken in them sensitivity for the dignity of others! One need only look on the typical school playground to see children who are ridiculed, bullied, or shunned by stronger or more popular children, either because they have special needs, uncommon physical characteristics or other attributes. Sometimes these children experience the bullying and shunning of others even into adulthood, and then the bullied victims sometimes respond in violent or inappropriate ways in their local communities.
In contrast to the violence of the anti-life mentality, respect for life builds peace. Respect for life comes from acknowledging the dignity of each human being. It is rooted in love, which each of us needs to live. A person without love is at war with himself and the world, causing violence and divisions in the most intimate relationships and extending to the wider society. Love affirms the profound respect and God-given dignity of each person.
In his 2013 Message on the WorldDay of Peace on January 1, Pope Benedict XVI highlighted the importance of respect for life for peace in the world:
"The path to the attainment of the common good and to peace is above all that of respect for human life in all its many aspects, beginning with its conception, through its development and up to its natural end. True peacemakers, then, are those who love, defend and promote human life in all its dimensions, personal, communitarian and transcendent. Life in its fullness is the height of peace. Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life."
Disregard for human life - in whatever form this may take - does not make the world more "convenient" or "free." Instead of solving problems, it only causes more pain and division in society. All of us, whatever our calling, can contribute to promoting a culture of life through our own personal daily witness, radiating Christ's love by upholding respect for others. When you help another person discover his own dignity, you are helping to build a more peaceful world, one life at a time.
Kimberly Baker is a staff assistant for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For more information on the bishops' pro-life activities, please visit www.usccb.org/prolife.
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