In surprise video appearance, Francis calls for revolution of tenderness

One of the surprises in recent days was the appearance of the Bishop of Rome on TedTalk, a video recording that was broadcast on April 25 to the annual TED conference.

May 05, 2017

By Anil Netto
One of the surprises in recent days was the appearance of the Bishop of Rome on TedTalk, a video recording that was broadcast on April 25 to the annual TED conference.

The conference focuses on Technology, Entertainment and Design plus science, business, the arts and global issues.

In the audience were the founders of giant tech firms, entertainers, artists, entertainers, venture capitalists, and other well known figures in society. Hardly the type of audience normally receptive to an address by the Bishop of Rome.

Still Francis took it in his stride.

First, he started people thinking about the marginalised and suffering in our midst. “As I meet, or lend an ear to those who are sick, to the migrants who face terrible hardships in search of a brighter future, to prison inmates who carry a hell of pain inside their hearts, and to those, many of them young, who cannot find a job, I often find myself wondering: ‘Why them and not me?’”

He then went out to make three main points:

“First, none of us is an island. We are all interconnected ... And we have to reach out to others. Many believe that a happy future is something impossible to achieve but while such concerns are valid, they are not insurmountable. They can be overcome when we don’t lock our door to the outside world. Happiness can only be discovered as a gift of harmony between the whole and each single component.

“Even science — and you know it better than I do — points to an understanding of reality as a place where every element connects and interacts with everything else.”

Then Francis spoke about the importance of equality and social inclusion — especially solidarity. These have been undermined by the nature of the global economy. “How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion. How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us.”

Recounting the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Francis lamented that while people’s paths are riddled with suffering, their preoccupation is with money, and things, instead of people.

“Often there is this habit by people who call themselves ‘respectable,’ of not taking care of the others, thus leaving behind thousands of human beings, or entire populations, on the side of the road.”

Unfortunately, in today’s world, there is much that keeps us apart, the barriers that we put up. In Malaysia, for instance, there is now a plan to build dorms for foreign workers. In theory, the idea of providing decent accommodation for foreign workers is commendable. But if the practice leads to segregation — keeping the migrants out of our sight — just like how many of the other marginalised in society (eg, refugees, urban settlers, senior citizens) are often hidden from public view, then we really have to question our motives.

It is often easy to despair but, fortunately, Francis pointed out, there are also those who are working to create a new world by taking care of the other, even out of their own pockets.

This new world is being built on a foundation of Hope. This does not mean being “optimistically naïve” and ignoring the present human tragedy. Rather, hope, said Francis, is “the door that opens onto the future. Hope is a humble, hidden seed of life that, with time, will develop into a large tree. “And it can do so much, because a tiny flicker of light that feeds on hope is enough to shatter the shield of darkness. In fact, just one person is enough to allow the seed of hope to sprout. That individual can be you. And then there will be another ‘you’, and another ‘you’, and it turns into an ‘us’.

And so, does hope begin when we have an ‘us’? No. Hope began with one ‘you’. When there is an ‘us’, there begins a revolution.”

On that note, Francis then called for a revolution of tenderness.

Tenderness, he said, was a love that comes close and becomes real. “It is a movement that starts from our heart and reaches the eyes, the ears and the hands. Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to listen to the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future.” And not just the cry of the poor, but also “the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth.” Tenderness means using our hands and our heart to comfort and care for those in need. It involves being on the same level as the ones we are trying to reach out to, so that we communicate at the same level. This is the same way that Jesus himself descended to our level, pointed out Francis: “He lowered himself, he lived his entire human existence practising the real, concrete language of love.”

Some people mistake tenderness for weakness. But it is not weakness; it is the path of fortitude, solidarity and humility, stressed Francis. “Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.”

In contrast, through humility and concrete love, “power — the highest, the strongest one — becomes a service, a force for good.”

Finally, Francis reminded us that the future of humankind isn’t only in the hands of politicians, great leaders or big companies. “Yes, they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognise the other as a ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us’ ”

Clearly this timely message — creating awareness of our interconnectedness, calling for inclusion and solidarity, and urging a revolution of tenderness to build a brave new world — must have struck a chord. More than 1.3 million people have already viewed his video presentation so far.

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