Despite the overwhelming consumer frenzy, the Christmas holidays prompt us to delve more deeply into our existence, they urge us to contemplate and critically examine our life so far, yet also to make enthusiastic and ambitious plans for the future. These are beautiful days as the Christmas spirit generates a collective expression of compassion and benevolence toward our suffering and impoverished fellow citizens. Social problems cannot, of course, be tackled merely by the present festive mood. But this brief period, during which feelings become softer, is to the spiritual benefit of all in a world where crudeness seems to be the prevailing norm. The conventional wishes for peace on Earth have surpassed all others this year, mainly from force of habit – even if they seem to have lost some of their confidence. This year, however, is one of those where the wish for peace has a genuinely deep meaning as it constitutes the most profound hope for a large section of humanity. The year 2001, the first of the 21st century and of the third millennium after Christ’s birth, was extremely turbulent; it was soaked in blood, conflicts and wars. One cannot possibly forget the thousands of innocent victims who died in the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the US Pentagon, the war in Afghanistan, and the bloody conflict in FYROM, which was finally contained at the eleventh hour. Even in Bethlehem, instead of angels’ psalmodies and hymns, death and disaster have reigned among the population as people mourn those 75 Palestinian citizens who were struck down by Israeli fire during the intifada. Humanity’s sufferings are innumerable. These days, however, humanity tends to be ruled by its optimistic side. We need to hope that the coming world will be a better place, devoid of past hatreds. This hope, despite the fact that it has often been dashed, is the incentive which urges us to improve our lives and it is the driving force behind humanity’s progress. This progress is indisputable despite the swings it may be attended by.

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