IT seems at the moment that there is a constant narrative in the news about building walls and dividing nations.
For months we’ve heard United States President Donald Trump talking endlessly about his wall between the US and Mexico.
With the Brexit debate there is talk of reintroducing borders in parts of Ireland.
Added to this, since 2001 walls have been built to divide more than 30 countries around the world.
In the midst of a society where we are readily told that the higher the fence, the safer we are, Pope Francis continues to invite us to be builders of a culture of encounter.
At World Youth Day in Panama, Pope Francis again reminded not only the youth, but everyone, to not create walls, but to build bridges.
We are encouraged to respect diversity and embrace difference as an opportunity to enrich ourselves with the wisdom that often exists in unexpected people and unforeseen events.
Many of the walls that separate nation from nation are built because there is an underlying fear of illegal immigration.
It’s often fear of difference that leads people to build barriers to divide one from another. Yet reacting from a climate of fear does not bring life.
Whilst fear leads us to suspicion and uncertainty, it is unity that we are called to search for in our acceptance of all those who are different from ourselves.
In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI wisely said, “true love does not eliminate legitimate differences, but harmonises them”.
This call to harmony, to unity, is the journey we are each called to walk.
We need to seek unity with our brothers and sisters across the globe.
The search for unity, working together and embracing difference, sometimes requires that we let go of our own ideas and opinions for the good of the other.
We can’t always have things our way and at times this can be difficult.
However, when we step back and consider the benefits of a collaborative approach, it is evident that we gain much more from searching together for the common good.
We might never be leaders of nations building a cement wall to divide a country, but we do have opportunities to build bridges in our families, in our work places, in our communities and in our daily lives.
We build bridges when we give a positive interpretation to the actions of others.
We build bridges when we choose to turn the other cheek rather than seek revenge when people hurt us.
We build bridges when we affirm someone for their efforts rather than point out their shortcomings.
In the small actions of daily life, we too can join the campaign of Pope Francis to build bridges of peace, love and hope, conscious that the need to change the world begins with me.
As we continue the journey of 2019, let us be ever more conscious of the need for us to be united, and ready to have open minds and hearts to accept the good of the other.
Let us strive to build bridges not walls in our daily encounters with one another.
And let us join our hearts and our prayers with the prayer of Jesus, “that they will all be one” (John 17:21).
Sr Melissa Dwyer is a religious sister of the Canossian Daughters of Charity in Brisbane.