Global Christmas Celebration 2023: Reflecting on the Meaning of Peace and Reconciliation

In the radiant glow of Christmas 2023, our hearts brimmed with joy as we recently welcomed students and teachers from Jesuit schools spanning the globe to share in our annual Global Christmas celebration. The English-language Connected Classroom was held on December 7th. Among the participating schools were: Ateneo de Manila Grade School and High School (Philippines), Ateneo de Davao Grade School and High School (Philippines), Kostka Jesuit Public High School (Poland), St. Joseph’s Indian CBSE School (India), Istituto Sociale (Italy) and St. Mary’s School – ICSE (India). Jose Felix Falgui, a teacher from Ateneo de Manila Grade School and High School (Philippines) kindly facilitated this session, inspiring students to share with joy and love.

In addition, for the first time, on Friday, December 8th, we successfully launched an international version of this celebration in French, with the participation of Collège N’temo de Kasongo-Lunda (République Démocratique du Congo), Collège Sadisana de Kikwit (République Démocratique du Congo), Collège Alfajiri de Bukavu (République Démocratique du Congo) and Collège Immaculée Conception de Mananjary (Madagascar). This celebration was facilitated by Gabriel Losambe SJ who delighted us with his inspiring voice and extraordinary singing skills.

Undoubtedly, both Connected Classroom experiences provided an excellent opportunity for the participating schools, and especially the students, to share and reflect on the meaning of peace and reconciliation through three central questions, in particular in the context of international conflicts such as the war in Ukraine and the Gaza-Israel crisis:

In terms of structure, both Christmas Connected Classrooms commenced with the reading of the renowned Peace Prayer by St. Francis of Assisi, embodying values such as peace, love, and selflessness. This prayer encourages goodwill and advocates for proactive, compassionate living as a means to become genuine instruments of peace.

Similarly, a deep reflection on “Christ’s message of Peace and Reconciliation” was shared with all the English and French-speaking schools, challenging the misconception that peace-making is a passive activity. This especially considering that true peacemakers are engaged in conflict resolution through the embodiment of virtues such as justice, harmony, repentance, and reconciliation. Drawing inspiration from the teachings of Jesus, the ultimate peacemaker pursues peace with both God and fellow humans, applying the gospel in conflict resolution and following Jesus’ example despite facing hate and suffering.

Below, we share the core questions and responses from some of the students who participated or if you prefer, watch this video clip showing the students’ reflections.

 

1. What can we learn about the meaning of peace and Jesus’ message of reconciliation during this season?

“The season of Christmas is a time to show love for others and Jesus Christ in different ways, like praying to God for the welfare of others, sharing, giving gifts, taking time to pray to the Lord, and gathering with your loved ones. The Advent season helps us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ, if we are too focused on material things, we will lose sight of the true calling of the Season of Advent which is reconciliation. As stewards of God all of us are called to serve for him and to care for his creations. And we are called to be kind to one another so that we could live a life of peace and understanding” (Samantha Janelle G. Polinar).

“Christmas is a time for sharing, giving and receiving gifts, and for gathering with loved ones. Advent helps us prepare for these things, but if we get too wrapped up in these activities, we lose sight of Advent’s call to reconciliation, doing good deeds and praying. We are called to work and serve for the kingdom of God: to prepare for our encounter with God in our daily lives and share that presence with our world. We should live a life of justice and peace” (Jamie Valverde).

“During this season, we can reflect on the meaning of peace by understanding Jesus’ message. Jesus taught us the importance of inner peace and reconciliation with oneself, as well as promoting harmony among people. His teachings taught us to forgive, to have compassion and to have understanding as key elements in achieving peace and reconciliation. By embodying these qualities, we can create an environment where conflicts can be resolved, relationships can be restored, and so that peace may be achieved” (Jill Maxeene J. Cayetano).

2. Can a thankful heart, lead us towards compassion?

“Yes, an attitude of gratitude can lead us to compassion because it is in realizing how blessed we are that we can show care to people, especially to those who have less in life” (Samantha Janelle G. Polinar).

“Yes, a thankful heart may lead us towards compassion, because this shows us not only how lucky we are to not be involved with all the mess around us but also for the trouble in our areas, such as the homeless, the sick, the poor, and the needy, we realize that we are very much lucky to have such a wonderful life of joy, laughter and sometimes sadness, but that sadness is the way of going forward in life” (Jill Maxeene J. Cayetano).

3.  How can we become authentic agents of peace and reconciliation?

“I think we can become agents of peace and reconciliation by listening. Let’s use God as an example again. God, as a man and as a god, listened to the people. He listened to sinners and non-sinners, alike. Because sometimes, people or groups just want to be listened to. And maybe, if they felt that someone cared, it would not have escalated to bombings or wars, like in the case of Gaza and just recently, here in Mindanao, Philippines. In my case, as a grade 5 student, maybe I can start by trying to put myself in my classmates’ shoes if there’s a misunderstanding and take a step back and listen” (Sebastian Mateo Lascano).

“We can become authentic agents of peace and reconciliation by encouraging others to resolve conflicts in their personal lives. In addition, we can become an advocate of peace and reconciliation by maintaining good relationships with others, giving to those in need, protecting each other, and most specially praying for each other. Even in simple, everyday situations and small places like at home or in the classroom, we can positively influence the people around us and create a harmonious environment. Becoming an authentic agent of peace doesn’t necessarily require big elaborate actions, because starting small is one of the best ways to personally show your kindness to others in your life” (Liam Raphael O. Lumanlan).

“I think that we can become authentic agents of peace and reconciliation by being kind and humble. We can become authentic agents of peace and reconciliation by being kind and humble because we are following in God’s footsteps, God is the most powerful of all, yet he chose to become man, Jesus Christ, he lived among the sinners, and yet he showed mercy to them and taught them how to be kind and humble. As a sixth grader, I can become an authentic agent of peace and reconciliation by being kind and humble to everyone like helping my classmates who are having a hard time with assignments, and by resolving problems by talking to each other instead of fighting” (Samantha Janelle G. Polinar).

“Authentic agents of peace and reconciliation. This is our goal, but we first have to answer the burning question ” How can we become authentic agents of peace and reconciliation”. We can do this through small but meaningful actions such as considering if what you say will offend the person or by simply doing kind acts like comforting a friend. If you think about it, everyone all around the world is spreading peace in their own little ways. Sure, thinking about it makes it sound all too easy, but the real challenges are yet to come” (Keonna Pauline C. Machacon).

Moroever, a pivotal segment in both Connected Classrooms provided an excellent opportunity for our engaged students to share their heartfelt wishes for harmony during this symbolic time of the year. They contributed to creating a more joyful and warm atmosphere through their beautiful shared singing skills, performing classical songs like “Les Anges dans nos Campagnes” (“Angels We Have Heard on High”) and the timeless “Joyeux Noël, Année Prospère et Joie”!

We would like to thank the following schools for their inspiring participation, St. Joseph’s Indian CBSE School (India), Kostka Jesuit Public High School (Poland), and Instituto Sociale (Italy). Through their talent, passion, and melodies, they truly “gave peace a chance” and reminded us that, in the words of Plato, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination… and life to everything.”

Watch this video clip with the students’ Christmas wishes.

To the students and teachers who participated in our Connected Classroom to celebrate Christmas 2023, we extend our heartfelt and sincere thanks for your engagement, unwavering support, and generous participation. We sincerely hope to reconnect with you next year, if not sooner.

Finally, we would also like to thank Colégio das Caldinhas (Portugal), Colegio San Ignacio A.O. (Chile) and Instituto Cultural Tampico (Mexico), who unfortunately were not able to make it for this celebration, but  generously and with great joy shared the following videos with Christmas wishes for all of us in our global community. We hope to share with you all, in next year’s celebration!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!

 

OUR SPECIAL THANKS TO:

– Mimoza Marku. Teacher. Istituto Sociale (Italy)

– Jose Felix Falgui. Teacher. Ateneo de Manila Grade School and High School (Philippines)

– Tyler Boone. Campus Minister. Ateneo de Manila Junior High School (Philippines)

– Eucelyn Ortiz. Coordinator Arrupe Office of Social Formation. Ateneo de Davao Grade School and High School (Philippines)

– Zofia Nazim. Teacher. Kostka Jesuit Public High School (Poland)

– Jennifer Andrews. Teacher. St. Joseph’s Indian CBSE School (India)

– Rita Maria Carvalho. Teacher. Colégio das Caldinhas (Portugal)

– David Chamorro. Teacher. Colegio San Ignacio (Chile)

– María Gabriela Brito Arroyo. Learning Resource Center Coordinator. Instituto Cultural Tampico (Mexico)

– Père Jean-Marcel Mupungu, SJ. Directeur des Etudes. Collège N’temo de Kasongo-Lunda (République Démocratique du Congo):

– Mr Salomon Kitoko. Professeur. Collège Sadisana de Kikwit (République Démocratique du Congo)

– Mme Marguerite Ntana. Professeur. Collège Alfajiri de Bukavu (République Démocratique du Congo)

– Mlle Zoella Rakotonirina. Professeur. Collège Immaculée Conception de Mananjary (Madagascar)

– Père Augustin Kalubi, SJ. Délégué de l’éducation de la Province Jésuite d’Afrique Centrale

– Mme Stéphanie Medina. Directrice du bureau de la Cocéjé (Coordination des collèges et écoles Jésuites Belges francophones)

– Père Andry, SJ. Délégué de l’éducation de la Province Jésuite de Madagascar