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2014: A year of peace talks and action

This week’s editorial leader

Peace talks: Two words that promise much and offer great hope. If only one of them could be replaced. The substitution of action for talks would be a huge step forward this year: Peace action, action for peace. Following the third anniversary last month of the beginning of the Arab ‘Spring,’ (which all too quickly became a winter of discontent) it is easy to be pessimistic about peace. Yet after calls by Pope Francis for peace (Christmas Urbi et Orbi) and an end to religious persecution (St Stephen’s Day message)—and in advance of his official Message for the 47th World Day of Peace on January 1—early signs of progress towards peace in the Middle East looked promising.

In a message to Pope Francis last Saturday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said his government is ready to participate in this month’s peace talks. The message was delivered during a meeting between Joseph Sweid, Syrian Minister of State, and Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the Pope’s secretary of state. That same evening Israel’s government authorised the release of 26 long-serving Palestinian prisoners, the third such release to be announced in parallel with US-sponsored peace talks. Yet last week Christians were targeted by Iraqi bombings.

Realistically, there may be no way to ‘restore’ stability to some of the governments in the region, some nations in fact reject all foreign intervention in favour of only national dialogue, which all too often proves to be increasingly fraught. Those who suffer most as a result of civil strife and political unrest are not the politicians but the people, some disproportionately when ethnicity and religion become bargaining tools in power struggles and vacuums.

While change—one common constant in our lives—is inevitably going to come, prayers for fair and peaceful progress are welcome and encouraged. May prayers, talks and action go hand in hand in 2014, and may any changes that come, in Scotland and abroad, respect the rights and freedoms of all of the people.


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