Men and women of different religions, from the different continents of this world, we have gathered in America for the first time, guided by the spiritual energy of the “spirit of Assisi.”
Here is the “Appeal for Peace,” launched April 27 by participants from various religions present at the 2006 International Prayer Meeting for Peace, organized in Washington, D.C.
The event was organized by the Archdiocese of Washington, Georgetown University, the Catholic University of America, and the Rome-base Community of Sant’Egidio to continue with the “Spirit of Assisi” promoted by Pope John Paul II.
Men and women of different religions, from the different continents of this world, we have gathered in America for the first time, guided by the spiritual energy of the “spirit of Assisi.” Here in Washington, D.C., we have prayed, we have dialogued, and we have invoked God for the great gift of peace.
We have also listened to the prayers of the many who ask for the globalization of solidarity; we have heard their cry that asks for the scourge of poverty to be defeated. Through the testimony of many people, an invocation has reached us. It comes from the victims of violence, and from the victims of terrorism and war; it rises from those who lack even the most basic human rights, the right to medical care, to water and food, and to religious freedom. We have felt that a world in which billions of human beings struggle to survive is unacceptable, at a time when humanity has more resources available than all previous generations.
We have come here, men and women, as pilgrims in search of peace. Our world seems to have forgotten that human life is sacred. God has compassion for those who suffer, those affected by war, and the victims of blind terrorism. The world is tired of living in fear. Fear humiliates the best part of us. Fear and pessimism sometimes seem to be the only way, but they lead down a dark road. Religions do not want violence, war, or terrorism; do not believe those who say otherwise!
To all our fellow religious people, to every man and every woman, we want to say that those who use violence discredit their own cause. Those who believe that greater violence is the response to the wrong they have suffered do not see the mountains of hatred they help create. Peace is the name of God. God never wants the elimination of the other; the sons and daughters of our adversaries are never our enemies: They are children to love and protect, all of them.
Humanity is not made better by violence and terror, but by faith and love. Fundamentalism is the childhood disease of all religions and cultures, for it imprisons people in a culture of enmity. This is why, in front of you young people, we say to those who kill, to those who sow terror and make war in God’s name, “Stop! Do not kill! With violence everyone loses! Let us talk together and God will shine on us!” Only peace is holy! Let us have and advocate serious, honest dialogue!
Dialogue is an art. It is not the choice of the fearful, of those who give way to evil without fighting. Dialogue challenges all men and women to see the best in others and to be rooted in the best of themselves. Dialogue is a medicine that heals wounds and helps make this world more livable for present and future generations.
Once again, today, we solemnly ask ourselves and all men and women, believers and people of good will, to have the courage to live the art of dialogue. We ask this for ourselves and for the generations to come, that the world may open to the hope of a new era of peace and justice.