Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Pope in Assisi says "Peace alone, and not war, is holy"

Pope Francis on Tuesday said that “that there is no tomorrow in war” and reiterated “that the name of God cannot be used to justify violence” because “Peace alone, and not war, is holy.”
The pontiff’s message in Assisi ended a day that saw religious leaders of most of the world pray again for peace and ask policy-makers “to defuse the causes of war: the lust for power and money, the greed of arms’ dealers, personal interests and vendettas for past wrongs.”

In the square in front of St Francis of Assisi, 30 years after John Paul II’s historic World Day of Prayer for Peace, religious leaders came to utter their cry on behalf of those who suffer violence. 

Standing next to Francis were Rabbi Abraham Skorka, rector of the Marshall Meyer rabbinical Seminary (Argentina); Abbas Shuman, deputy dean of Al-Azhar University (Egypt); and the Very Venerable Gijun Sugitani, chief adviser of the Tendai Buddhist School (Japan). Also present were war victim Ms. Tamar Mikalli, who fled from Aleppo (Syria) and bore witness to the many ills of war before the intervention of Patriarch Bartholomew I, Israeli Rabbi David Brodman, Koei Morikawa, patriarch of Tendai Buddhism and Din Syamsuddin, chairman of the Indonesian ulema Council.

In his address, the pope called for action “to overcome what is closed, and become open to God and to our brothers and sisters. God asks this of us, calling us to confront the great sickness of our time: indifference. It is a virus that paralyzes, rendering us lethargic and insensitive, a disease that eats away at the very heart of religious fervour, giving rise to a new and deeply sad paganism: the paganism of indifference.

“We cannot remain indifferent. Today the world has a profound thirst for peace. In many countries, people are suffering due to wars which, though often forgotten, are always the cause of suffering and poverty. In Lesbos, my dear brother, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and I saw the sorrow of war in the eyes of the refugees, the anguish of peoples thirsting for peace. I am thinking of the families, whose lives have been shattered; of the children who have known only violence in their lives; of the elderly, forced to leave their homeland. All of them have a great thirst for peace. We do not want these tragedies to be forgotten. Rather together we want to give voice to all those who suffer, to all those who have no voice and are not heard. They know well, often better than the powerful, that there is no tomorrow in war, and that the violence of weapons destroys the joy of life.

“We do not have weapons. We believe, however, in the meek and humble strength of prayer. On this day, the thirst for peace has become a prayer to God, that wars, terrorism and violence may end. The peace which we invoke from Assisi is not simply a protest against war, nor is it “a result of negotiations, political compromises or economic bargaining. It is the result of prayer” (John Paul II, Address, Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels, 27 October 1986: Insegnamenti IX,2 [1986], 1252). We seek in God, who is the source of communion, the clear waters of peace for which humanity thirsts: these waters do not flow from the deserts of pride and personal interests, from the dry earth of profit at any cost and the arms trade.

“Our religious traditions are diverse. But our differences are not the cause of conflict and provocation, or a cold distance between us. We have not prayed against one another today, as has unfortunately sometimes occurred in history. Without syncretism or relativism, we have rather prayed side-by-side and for each other. In this very place Saint John Paul II said: “More perhaps than ever before in history, the intrinsic link between an authentic religious attitude and the great good of peace has become evident to all” (Address, Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels, 27 October 1986: Insegnamenti IX,2, 1268). Continuing the journey which began thirty years ago in Assisi, where the memory of that man of God and of peace who was Saint Francis remains alive, “once again, gathered here together, we declare that whoever uses religion to foment violence contradicts religion’s deepest and truest inspiration” (Address to the Representatives of the World Religions, Assisi, 24 January 2002: Insegnamenti XXV,1 [2002], 104). We further declare that violence in all its forms does not represent “the true nature of religion. It is the antithesis of religion and contributes to its destruction” (Benedict XVI, Address at the Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World, Assisi, 27 October 2011: Insegnamenti VII,2 [2011], 512). We never tire of repeating that the name of God cannot be used to justify violence. Peace alone, and not war, is holy!

“Today we have pleaded for the holy gift of peace. We have prayed that consciences will be mobilized to defend the sacredness of human life, to promote peace between peoples and to care for creation, our common home. Prayer and concrete acts of cooperation help us to break free from the logic of conflict and to reject the rebellious attitudes of those who know only how to protest and be angry. Prayer and the desire to work together are directed towards a true peace that is not illusory: not the calm of one who avoids difficulties and turns away, if his personal interests are not at risk; it is not the cynicism of one who washes his hands of any problem that is not his; it is not the virtual approach of one who judges everything and everyone using a computer keyboard, without opening his eyes to the needs of his brothers and sisters, and dirtying his hands for those in need. Our path leads us to immersing ourselves in situations and giving first place to those who suffer; to taking on conflicts and healing them from within; to following ways of goodness with consistency, rejecting the shortcuts offered by evil; to patiently engaging processes of peace, in good will and with God’s help.

“Peace, a thread of hope that unites earth to heaven, a word so simple and difficult at the same time. Peace means Forgiveness, the fruit of conversion and prayer, that is born from within and that, in God’s name, makes it possible to heal old wounds. Peace means Welcome, openness to dialogue, the overcoming of closed-mindedness, which is not a strategy for safety, but rather a bridge over an empty space. Peace means Cooperation, a concrete and active exchange with another, who is a gift and not a problem, a brother or sister with whom to build a better world. Peace denotes Education, a call to learn every day the challenging art of communion, to acquire a culture of encounter, purifying the conscience of every temptation to violence and stubbornness which are contrary to the name of God and human dignity.

“We who are here together and in peace believe and hope in a fraternal world. We desire that men and women of different religions may everywhere gather and promote harmony, especially where there is conflict. Our future consists in living together. For this reason we are called to free ourselves from the heavy burdens of distrust, fundamentalism and hate. Believers should be artisans of peace in their prayers to God and in their actions for humanity! As religious leaders, we are duty bound to be strong bridges of dialogue, creative mediators of peace. We turn to those who hold the greatest responsibility in the service of peoples, to the leaders of nations, so that they may not tire of seeking and promoting ways of peace, looking beyond their particular interests and those of the moment: may they not remain deaf to God’s appeal to their consciences, to the cry of the poor for peace and to the healthy expectations of younger generations. Here, thirty years ago, Pope John Paul II said: “Peace is a workshop, open to all and not just to specialists, savants and strategists. Peace is a universal responsibility (Address, Lower Piazza of the Basilica of Saint Francis, 27 October 1986: l.c., 1269). Let us assume this responsibility, reaffirming today our “yes” to being, together, builders of the peace that God wishes for us and for which humanity thirsts.”

The day ended with an "Appeal for Peace 2016" signed by all those present and "handed over" to a group of children. In the statement, "men and women of various religions" said that "war harms the world, leaving in its wake a legacy of sorrows and hate.  In war, everyone loses, including the victors." Hence the desire to "bring about encounters through dialogue, and to oppose every form of violence and abuse of religion which seeks to justify war and terrorism."

“We have prayed to God, asking him to grant peace to the world. We recognize the need to pray constantly for peace, because prayer protects the world and enlightens it. God’s name is peace. The one who calls upon God’s name to justify terrorism, violence and war does not follow God’s path. War in the name of religion becomes a war against religion itself. With firm resolve, therefore, let us reiterate that violence and terrorism are opposed to an authentic religious spirit.

“We have heard the voice of the poor, of children and the younger generations, of women and so many brothers and sisters who are suffering due to war. With them let us say with conviction: No to war! May the anguished cry of the many innocents not go unheeded. Let us urge leaders of nations to defuse the causes of war: the lust for power and money, the greed of arms’ dealers, personal interests and vendettas for past wrongs. We need a greater commitment to eradicating the underlying causes of conflicts: poverty, injustice and inequality, the exploitation of and contempt for human life.

“May a new season finally begin, in which the globalized world can become a family of peoples. May we carry out our responsibility of building an authentic peace, attentive to the real needs of individuals and peoples, capable of preventing conflicts through a cooperation that triumphs over hate and overcomes barriers through encounter and dialogue. Nothing is lost when we effectively enter into dialogue. Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace. Through this gathering in Assisi, we resolutely renew our commitment to be such artisans, by the help of God, together will all men and women of good will.”

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