World Youth Day Voices for Peace

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World Youth Day 2016 begins tomorrow, but many young pilgrims from around the world are already there in Kraków, including groups from the Archdiocese of Washington and also a special contingent from Iraq. In solidarity with our sisters and brothers from that land where the Church is suffering deadly persecution, and with all others who live in violence, today the USA pilgrims from the archdiocese launched a special social media campaign with the hashtag #WYDvoices4peace.

Poland is a land that has itself known much violence, persecution and suffering, including the horrors of Nazi genocide, followed by the oppression of the Communist regime and the Soviets. Earlier today, the archdiocesan pilgrim group visited the infamous death camp at Auschwitz II-Birkenau to remember and bear witness to the more than one million people who were systematically killed there by the Nazi regime, 90 percent of them Jews, and to also pray for the dead and for those who suffer persecution today, so that we might have peace in our world today.

One of the questions voiced after the Nazi genocide, which should strike at the conscience of us all, is why there was such a silence in the world about the atrocities that were occurring. Sadly, subsequent violence, persecution and genocide since then have also often been met with silence or the effective silence of not doing anything to foster peace and security.

We hear so much today of the word “solidarity.” Solidarity is a particularly fitting word given the history of the Solidarność (Solidarity) movement in Poland, which Pope John Paul II recognized as a force for the authentic peace of human rights and freedom. Solidarity takes on added poignancy and urgency with our sisters and brothers from Iraq joining their fellow young people in prayer at World Youth Day.

Today our solidarity with people of faith in places where there is clearly an effort to eliminate them is something that we simply cannot in conscience ignore. We need to raise our voices for peace. Please join our pilgrims in prayer and send a message using #WYDvoices4peace.

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