Like previous years, 2013 has had its share of bad news, tragedies, partisanship, violent protests, and bloodshed. There were, however, glimmering moments of promise, compassion, and drive that are a testament to the human spirit, remind us that there were positive world moments this year, and fill us with hope for the one to come.
Here we take a look back at the year in world news. These 10 photos remind us that there were positive moments in the year gone by:
1. Pope Francis showed amazing acts of kindness
It's hard to pick just one of Pope Francis' many uplifting stories from his first year in papal office. Since he became pope in March, Francis has repeatedly shown he is a pope of the people. He has surprised , and even by making random cold calls to people in distress around the world.
"For pulling the papacy out of the palace and into the streets, for committing the world’s largest church to confronting its deepest needs and for balancing judgment with mercy," Pope Francis was chosen as TIME's 2013 "Person of the Year."
2. Malala Yousafzai fought for education and human rights
Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by the Taliban on a school bus in Pakistan because she spoke out. This year, she spent her 16th birthday addressing the United Nations, even more driven to advocate for the education of every child.
"They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed," Malala said in a stirring speech at the UN. "The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born."
Since the attack, she has transitioned from being a child victim to a fierce and articulate advocate for women's rights, education, and social justice. She has moved the hearts of millions, received the Clinton Global Citizen Award, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
3. José Mujica became the "world's poorest president"
Urguay President José Mujica lives in a modest farmhouse outside the capital with laundry strung outside, water from a well in the yard, and guarded by two police officers and a three-legged dog named Manuela. He is known as the world's "poorest president."
Shunning the luxurious house the Uruguayan state provides for its leaders, 78-year old Mujica has won the hearts of many through his austere lifestyle. He also donates about 90% of his monthly salary (about $12,000) to charity, flies economy class, and drives an old Volkswagen Beetle. "My definition of poor are those who need too much," said Mujica. "Because those who need too much are never satisfied."
In addition to decrying excessive wealth and consumption, he also led the charge toward cannabis legalization and policies on abortion and same-sex marriage.
4. A rubber ducky toured the world
This adorable, four-story "rubber ducky" graced the waters of several cities earlier this year including Hong Kong, Sydney, Pittsburgh, Sao Paolo, and Amsterdam, drawing smiles, laughter, and the occasionally WTF? from people everywhere.
According to Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, the gigantic sunshine yellow duck "made all the waters of the world become a global bathtub." He insists it was not just an attraction for kids. "I see it as an adult thing. It makes you feel young again," he said. "It refers to your childhood when there was no stress or economic pressure, no worry about having to pay the rent."
5. A police officer saved hundreds of lives
In 2005, 22-year-old Kevin Berthia stood on a narrow iron bar on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, one of the world's most widely-used suicide locations. Eight years later, he is a married father of two, thanks to California Highway Patrol Officer Kevin Briggs, who talked to Berthia for an hour on the edge of the bridge.
In May 2013, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention recognized Briggs with a public service award in suicide prevention that was presented by Berthia, who hadn't seen him since that day. According to his colleagues, Briggs has a gift of connecting with people contemplating suicide. Only one has jumped during his 23-year career.
"He never made me feel guilty for being in the situation I was in," said Berthia. "That an individual who doesn't even know me could listen to me and hear my story and show me compassion gave me another reason maybe to try again."
6. A toddler was functionally cured of HIV
A baby born HIV-positive in Mississippi was administered high doses of three antiretroviral drugs just hours after she was born to a mother not diagnosed HIV-positive herself until just before the delivery.
Two and a half years later, doctors say there is no evidence of HIV in the child's blood, despite being taken off medication. As the first toddler ever to be "functionally cured" of HIV, the case is a game-changer in the global fight against AIDS. According to the UNAIDS Global Report, about 1,000 infants are born with HIV every day.
"If we can replicate this in other infants ... this has huge implications for the burden of infection that's occurring globally," said Dr. Deborah Persaud, a pediatrician at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. "For the unfortunate ones who do get infected, if this can be replicated, this would offer real hope of clearing the virus."
7. Multiple countries progressed on the road to equality
The year 2013 will be remembered as a historic marker for LGBT rights and equality. From the U.S. Supreme Court' ruling overturning Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor, to the legalization of same-sex marriage in France, New Zealand, Brazil, Uruguay, and the United Kingdom, a cascade of marriage equality freedoms, protection under law, and policies unfolded around the world.
8. Religious communities came together
The trustees of Bradford's last synagogue faced the tough choice of closing the 132-year-old building's doors because of serious damages done to the UK's historic site. Bradford's Muslim community, however, decided to intervene with a fund-raising effort to secure the future of the Bradford Reform Synagogue, and even form a friendship between the Muslim and Jewish community leaders such as Rudi Leavor, the synagogue's 87-year-old chairman, and Zulfi Karim, secretary of Bradford Council of Mosques.
Today, the men get along so well that when Leavor goes on holiday, he hands over the synagoge keys and alarm code to Karim. They have also started a tradition of collaboration whereby the Jewish community invites local Muslims and Christians to an oneg shabbat and Muslims do the same for Ramadan.
"Rudi is my new found big brother," said Karim. "It makes me proud that we can protect our neighbours and at the same time preserve an important part of Bradford's cultural heritage."
9. Batkid saved the day in Gotham City
On November 16, thousands of volunteers helped transform the city of San Francisco into Gotham City to fulfill five-year-old Miles Scott's dream of becoming Batkid.
Scott, who has battled leukemia for years, had a city to save with his sidekick, Batman, and was able to drive around in a Batmobile Lamborghini, rescue a damsel in distress that was tied to a cable car track, and cruise by thousands of fans, volunteers, policemen, and supporters to receive a key to the city from Foggy City's Mayor Ed Lee. He even got a shout out from President Obama and a special print edition "Gotham City Chronicle" covering the events with articles written by Clark Kent and Lois Lane.
Orchestrated by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, November 15 marked a remarkable day of kindness, generosity and compassion.