World leaders did not shrink from controversial or difficult subjects in their Christmas messages this year.
The British monarch Queen Elizabeth highlighted a series of tragedies that hit the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth this year, while Pope Francis warned of the winds of war and the suffering of the worlds poor. Justin Welby, the leader of the Anglican Church, attacked tyrannical and populist world leaders.
Elizabeth said she was thinking of the victims of a series of terrorist attacks that hit the UK. In March, a man killed five people in Westminster. In May, a man blew himself up and killed 22 at a pop concert in Manchester. And the next month, three men killed eight people near London Bridge using a vehicle and knives.
This Christmas, I think of London and Manchester, whose powerful identities shone through over the past 12 months in the face of appalling attacks, she said. In Manchester, those targeted included children who had gone to see their favorite singer. A few days after the bombing, I had the privilege of meeting some of the young survivors and their parents. I describe that hospital visit as a privilege because the patients I met were an example to us all, showing extraordinary bravery and resilience.
She recalled the impact of hurricanes in the Caribbean, and the fire in a London tower block that killed 71 people in June.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who died and those who lost so much; and we are indebted to members of the emergency services who risked their own lives, this past year, saving others, she said.
Pope Francis rooted his message in the story of Jesus Christ and his birth in Bethlehem and said his spirit lives on in those suffering economic or political hardship.
We see Jesus in the children of the Middle East who continue to suffer because of growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, he said while calling for a political solution to provide a state for Palestinians alongside the state of Israel.
The pope listed conflicts in the Middle East, Africa and South America and spoke about the potential for conflict on the Korean peninsula.
Let us pray that confrontation may be overcome on the Korean peninsula and that mutual trust may increase in the interest of the world as a whole, he said, while highlighting the plight of the unemployed and children forced into labor or military service.
We see Jesus in the children of unemployed parents who struggle to offer their children a secure and peaceful future, he said. And in those whose childhood has been robbed and who, from a very young age, have been forced to work or to be enrolled as soldiers by unscrupulous mercenaries.
Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, warned of the dangers of populist leaders, possibly in reference to United States President Donald Trump.
In 2017, we have seen around the world tyrannical leaders that enslave their peoples, populist leaders that deceive them, corrupt leaders that rob them, even simply democratic, well-intentioned leaders of many parties and countries who are normal, fallible human beings, he said.
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