1986-2016: the spirit of Assisi blows again from the city of St. Francis thirty years after the first realizations of the prophetic intuition of Saint John Paul II who summoned the World Day of Prayer for Peace in the belief that large religions, as Andrea Riccardi recalled yesterday, have a common duty to "face the challenge of peace in the world." This is not an "isolated event" but precisely a "prophecy" that "immediately took the taste of history."
Thirty years have passed since 1986, during which, said Riccardi, the spirit of Assisi "has arisen, has created brotherhoods, made peace initiatives grow, brought awareness of the link between the various religious communities, fought against the enslavement of religion to war and terrorism." The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, quoting the recent Synod of the Orthodox Church, said in turn that "responsible interfaith dialogue is a significant help to promote mutual trust, peace and reconciliation," "a common event, a joint initiative [that] must be a ecumenical response to the ecumenical responsibility."
From now until Tuesday, Sant’Egidio in collaboration with the Diocese of Assisi and the Franciscan families will proclaim its « thirst for peace » in the presence of 511 representatives of different religious traditions, including many guests from areas affected by conflicts such as Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, 12.000 participants and more than 1,500 volunteers from Sant’Egidio.
On Monday and Tuesday, 29 roundtables unfold on crucial topics as Europe, Africa, Middle East, Islam, ecology, poverty, ecumenism, dialogue, the role of believers in curbing violence and terrorism. Tuesday afternoon, Pope Francis will speak at the closing ceremony.
Meanwhile, he sent his greetings from St. Peter's Square: "In the example of St. Francis, man of faith and kindness, we are all called to offer the world a strong testimony of our commitment to peace and reconciliation between peoples."
The President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella, present yesterday at the inauguration, made the following statement: "The dialogue between religions, between believers and non-believers, the dialogue of culture can do much more than it seems, because the fight against violent extremism is also a cultural struggle. Culture can prevail over extremism."
In a message to the participants, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, pointed out that the work of Sant’Egidio is the way forward to overcome the challenges of our time. “With its inter-religious and inter-cultural character, [it] reaffirms that it is only through dialogue and negotiation that we can find sustainable solutions to violence”.
Several testimonies related how the spirit of Assisi gave birth to numerous local peace initiatives thanks to the commitment of men and women of Sant’Egidio. Faustin Archange Touadéra, president of the Central African Republic, recalled that peace was made possible in his country "because men and women of faith did not accept the logic of the clash of religions", and because of the work of Sant'Egidio, which during the most difficult years of the crisis, has never "stopped talking with religious communities, armed groups and political parties, to remind all Central Africans that their country is a place of peaceful coexistence between faiths and cultures.”
Baleka Mbete, speaker of South African National Assembly, described the transformation of her country from a "theater of war", a "pariah state" to a "rainbow nation" oriented, even if it is "still developing", "towards a" sustainable peace ", having chosen "the path of transitional justice instead of endless whitch-hunts and retribution”.
Mohammed Sammak, political adviser to the Grand Mufti of Lebanon, stressed that "addressing religious extremism is first and foremost a duty of Muslims". They should free their religion from the "hijacking" it has been subjected to by extremists to be used as a tool for vengeance. "Islam believes in pluralism and considers diversity amongst people an expression of divine will that people be different."
Photos: source, Sant'Egidio website