During the Christmas Season, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior and honor Him with songs like “Silent Night,” let us not forget all the people in war-torn countries who are not experiencing a “silent night where all is calm and all is bright,” but are running for their lives by seeking shelter in their own homeland or in the land of a foreign country.
Since Aug. 25 (just four months before Christmas), we’ve heard about the plight of 620,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled from Myanmar into Bangladesh to find refuge and to save their lives. These Muslims are a stark reminder to all of us that there are people from all over the world who are experiencing what Joseph and Mary experienced: “No Room in the Inn!”
Although thousands of Muslim refugees are still feeling the pain of being exiled, there is hope at the “light of the tunnel” that emanates from that “Star” in Bethlehem and especially from the light of that babe born in the manger, Jesus Christ: On Nov. 2, both “Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an agreement covering the return of Rohingya Muslims who fled across the mutual border. Myanmar announced the agreement but provided no details on how many Rohingya refugees would be allowed to return home or how soon that might happen” (Bernat Armangue – santamariatimes.com).
During this Christmas season and throughout the New Year, let us pray for signed agreements and peace-treaties from around the world by calling upon the One who has the power and authority to bridge the gap between heaven and earth and between friend and foe. From the “wood of the manger to the wood of the cross,” may the love, light and forgiveness that Jesus spread throughout His life continue to inspire us to offer the same to all of our brothers and sisters from every nation, race, people, and tongue (Revelation 7:9).
Are signed agreements, peace-treaties and/or cease-fires possible? The Truce of 1914 says that with God all things are possible: On Christmas 1914, during World War I, the Germans and the British celebrated a Christmas Truce where both sides, at least temporarily, were willing to turn their swords into plowshares by stopping the war for a moment of peace there on the Western Front, right there on the edge of the German and French lines.
This Christmas Truce didn’t happen overnight. On Dec. 7, 1914, just 18 days before Christmas, Pope Benedict XV called for a cease-fire in order to celebrate Christmas 1914. The great powers leading these armies thought that Benedict XV was out of his mind; however, the foot soldiers in the trenches thought differently, and so on Dec. 25, 1914, guess what happened? The soldiers from both sides laid down their weapons and crossed over the enemy lines in order to meet their enemy with a spirit of peace and harmony. This was not a truce just between a small group of about 50, 100 or 200 men; we are talking about 100,000 British and German Troops setting aside their differences and putting away their hatred by exchanging greetings, hand-shakes, gifts, food, cigarettes and souvenirs in order to offer “good will to all men.”
For a moment in time, World War I stopped, all because of a little baby born there in Bethlehem and guess what song both sides were singing that night, none other than the song that both sides knew so well: “Silent Night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.” If the Germans and the British could lay down their weapons for at least one day, what miracles of peace and harmony can you and I expect in our own lives during this Christmas Season and in 2018? “Let there be peace, and let it begin with me!”
Rev. Vialpando is the priest at St. Marguerite Catholic Church in Tooele.