“The time has come to boldly dream anew that peace is possible, that it is necessary, that a world without war is not utopian”, religious leaders have proclaimed.
“Before it is too late, we would remind everyone that war always leaves the world worse than it was”, reads an interfaith appeal for peace that Pope Francis, among representatives of the world’s religions, signed this October 20 in an International Meeting of Prayer for Peace on the Capitoline Hill in Rome, sponsored by the Community of Sant’Egidio and entitled “No one is saved alone – Peace and fraternity”.
The pontiff was among those religious leaders that took part in the prayer vigil Tuesday. At his side was Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, who in his address urged “we have to start taking care of our common home that all of us are in, children of this humanity and of all that God has created”.
“In the Christian tradition, man is created in the image and likeness of God and many times a certain theology has interpreted this as a kind of supremacy of man over the rest of creation”, Bartholomew lamented.
The Orthodox hierarch called on Christians and citizens to “subvert” this anthropological order “and understand that the common house is like a house of mirrors”. “A mirror in which we see our image reflected, as well as that of all our brothers and sisters, and with us, all the elements of creation”.
“Created in the image and likeness of God, we see in ourselves the image of our brother and in every human being the divine fragment. Looking at what is around us, we see the divine work it contains”, the Ecumenical Patriarch explained.
Insisting that “there is no longer room” in our world today “for fundamentalism, social and economic injustice, hedonism, selfishness, and a desire for domination”, Bartholomew launched a powerful plea for “fraternity and peace”, insisting that those virtues “are not elements of religious or cultural fundamentalism, but true freedom that makes us understand in these dark moments of the earth that ‘no one is saved alone'”.
– Grand Imam of Al-Azhar condemns “sinful criminal act” of beheading of teacher in Paris
Other religious leaders that spoke Tuesday at the prayer vigil included Haim Korsia, the Chief Rabbi of France; Abdelsalam Abdellatif Mohamed, the Secretary General of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, jointly sponsored by the Vatican; Shoten Minegishi, a Soto Zen Buddhist monk from Japan; and Karmaljit Singh Dillon, from the Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak National Committee in Pakistan.
In his reflection, Rabbi Korsia insisted that “our fraternity needs to be practiced in the encounter, in debate, sometimes even in lively discussion, but always in the hope of meeting the other, in order to find oneself”. In turn, Abdelsalam Abdellatif Mohamed made the most of his address to plead that “the wounded world of today truly needs to share its bread in order to be more peaceful and secure”.
The Secretary General of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity then read a prepared statement from the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Egypt, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, who signed with Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi in February last year the landmark “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together”.
In his statement, Al-Tayyeb deplored the devastating health, social and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, but also “the epidemic of discrimination and racism, a disease that affects and wears down the human conscience”.
As an “antidote” to all forms of marginalisation and oppression, the Islamic leader proposed “human fraternity”, which in his view “does not mean that we are content just to accept others, but rather that we fight for their wellbeing and safety, refuse to discriminate against them because of any differences, and spare no effort to spread these high principles among people”.
Al-Tayyeb also issued a powerful response to the horrific beheading in Paris of a teacher who showed his students cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad:
“As Sheikh of Al-Azhar I declare before Almighty God that I disassociate myself and the precepts of the Islamic religion and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad – upon him be the peace and blessing of God – from this sinful criminal act and from all those who pursue this perverse and false ideology.
“At the same time I confirm that insulting religions and abusing sacred symbols under the pretext of freedom of expression represents a form of intellectual ambiguity and an explicit call to immorality.
“That terrorist and his people do not represent the religion of Muhammad – upon him be the peace and blessing of God – just as the New Zealand terrorist who murdered Muslims in the mosque does not represent the religion of Jesus, peace be upon him”.
The Grand Imam closed his message with a plea to believers of all religions:
“Let us heal together the wounds of humanity and discover the values of mercy, justice and tolerance… Let us help people regain the smile that wars and conflicts have taken away from them… Perhaps these dreams are ambitious, but making them a reality is not difficult for the Most High God if we believe in him and in the human fraternity to which we are called”.
– Full text of the interfaith Appeal for Peace
“All of us are brothers and sisters! Let us pray to the Most High that, after this time of trial, there may no longer be ‘others’, but rather, a great ‘we’, rich in diversity”
(Source: Community of Sant’Egidio)
Gathered in Rome, in “the spirit of Assisi”, and spiritually united to believers worldwide and to all men and women of good will, we have prayed alongside one another to invoke upon our world the gift of peace.
We have called to mind the wounds of humanity, we are united with the silent prayers of so many of our suffering brothers and sisters, all too often nameless and unheard.
We now solemnly commit ourselves to make our own and to propose to the leaders of nations and the citizens of the world this Appeal for Peace.
On this Capitoline Hill, in the wake of the greatest conflict in history, the nations that had been at war made a pact based on a dream of unity that later came true: the dream of a united Europe.
Today, in these uncertain times, as we feel the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic that threatens peace by aggravating inequalities and fear, we firmly state that no one can be saved alone: no people, no single individual!
Wars and peace, pandemics and health care, hunger and access to food, global warming and sustainable development, the displacement of populations, the elimination of nuclear threats and the reduction of inequalities: these are not matters that concern individual nations alone. We understand this better nowadays, in a world that is amply connected, yet often lacks a sense of fraternity.
All of us are brothers and sisters! Let us pray to the Most High that, after this time of trial, there may no longer be “others”, but rather, a great “we”, rich in diversity.
The time has come to boldly dream anew that peace is possible, that it is necessary, that a world without war is not utopian.
This is why we want to say once more: “No more war”!
Tragically, for many, war once again seems to be one possible means of resolving international disputes. It is not. Before it is too late, we would remind everyone that war always leaves the world worse than it was.
War is a failure of politics and of humanity. We appeal to government leaders to reject the language of division, often based on fear and mistrust, and to avoid embarking on paths of no return. Together let us look at the victims. All too many conflicts are presently in course.
To leaders of nations we say: let us work together to create a new architecture of peace. Let us join forces to promote life, health, education and peace.
The time has come to divert the resources employed in producing ever more destructive and deadly weapons to choosing life and to caring for humanity and our common home.
Let us waste no time! Let us start with achievable goals: may we immediately unite our efforts to contain the spread of the virus until there is a vaccine that is suitable and available to all. The pandemic is reminding us that we are blood brothers and sisters.
To all believers, and to men and women of good will, we say: let us become creative artisans of peace, let us build social friendship, let us make our own the culture of dialogue.
Honest, persistent and courageous dialogue is the antidote to distrust, division and violence. Dialogue dismantles at the outset the arguments for wars that destroy the fraternity to which our human family is called.
No one can feel exempted from this. All of us have a shared responsibility. All of us need to forgive and to be forgiven.
The injustices of the world and of history are not healed by hatred and revenge, but by dialogue and forgiveness.
May God inspire in us a commitment to these ideals and to the journey that we are making together. May he touch every heart and make us heralds of peace.