Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez has issued a New Year statement condemning violence committed in God’s name, such as the beheading of Christians by jihadists in Nigeria last week.
“This season we note with particular sadness the violent attacks on people of faith,” writes Gomez, who is also the president of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference (USCCB). “To name just a few incidents: worshippers in a church in Texas are assaulted by a gunman; in New York, a man goes on a stabbing rampage during a Hanukkah celebration in a rabbi’s home. Christians in Nigeria are beheaded and their killers share video of the atrocity worldwide.”
“It needs to be said that violence in the name of God is blasphemy,” he continues in a message for the World Day of Peace, celebrated by Catholics on January 1.
“The rise of antisemitic violence in this country and around the world must be condemned along with the ongoing persecution of Christians,” Gomez notes. “Protecting religious freedom and freedom of conscience should be among the highest priorities of every government.”
Among offenses against peace, the archbishop also underscores the taking of the lives of unborn children through abortion.
“In our neighborhoods and communities, violence and cruelty are a sad and ordinary reality of daily life,” he writes. “Still children in our country are killed each day in the womb, and many of our neighbors do not have what they need to lead a dignified life.”
Our world and our lives “are far from peaceful,” the archbishop declares. “So many of our brothers and sisters are living in countries torn by war and injustice, terrorism and persecution; many suffer violence because of race, religion, ideology or nationality.”
“Jesus Christ came as a child on Christmas to show us that every person is a child of God, made in his image,” Gomez states. “He came to show us that all humanity is one family, that we are all brothers and sisters no matter where we are born, the color of our skin or the language that we speak.”
On this World Day of Peace, the Catholic church in the U.S. joins Pope Francis and the universal Church in praying for peace, he writes. “We pray for peace in our hearts and peace in our world. We pray for the conversion of every heart that hates and we pray for the courage to overcome evil with good and respond to hatred with love.”
“We know that peace is God’s gift, and peace begins when we recognize his presence in every person, when we love him and serve him in the poor and defenseless, in those who are ill, in the refugee, the immigrant, and the prisoner, in every person that our society or economy cannot find a place for,” he writes.