Andrea Riccardi in Assisi: religions are fountains of hope for those who thirst for peace









Your Holiness,

Distinguished representatives of the Christian Churches and  world religions,

There beautiful moments, like tonight, when we see peace in the heart of many religions and in those of so many people. It is comforting for a world that thirsts for peace for people at war, for those  fleeing from violence or terrorism,  for the prisoners, those  who are tortured, mothers who see their children suffer, for the poor and those impoverished by war. Religions are indeed fountains of hope for those who thirst for peace.

Thanks, then, to all of you, to our friends of Assisi, to Pope Francis, who walks with peace seekers.

Religious leaders showing  themselves together, calling for peace,  are a shining picture.

This  vision unmasks those who use the name of God to wage war and terrorize. So it was thirty years ago, in 1986, when John Paul II had the courage to invite together people who had been considered estranged for thousands of years. Many responded. It was not to be an isolated incident, as some wanted, a pope holy extravagance. Was it a onetime event possible only in a city, like Assisi,  precious  and beautiful as a crib? Or could it only be an event that takes place in lecture halls or conference rooms? It was not so. The event has become the history. It has become history of  cities,  peripheries,  peoples, year after year,  tarred by the mud of the world, charged by pain, burdened  of expectations and hopes.

For thirty years we have been walking  in this spirit through the paths of the world. We understood that every religious community that prays can free energies for peace.

Since 1986, the waters of peace are overflowing the fountains of religion mixing themselves to extinguish conflicts.  It is the Spirit of Assisi. How many stories!  I remember the Syrian Bishop, Gregorios Ibrahim. He  was  here in 1986 and after that he has always been with us: he believed in living together. He was bishop of Aleppo, a city of interfaith coexistence that was proclaimed World Heritage Site in 1986. In April 2013, he left of Aleppo with the bishop Yazigi on a humanitarian mission. They have not returned.

Aleppo, has been bombed and is now a pile of rubble with skeletons of buildings where people live. How much thirst for peace in Syria! There, they have cynically waged war, focusing weapons of all kinds: they killed  coexistence. Because war is the madness of people  who are ravenous for power and money.

Once you know the pain of war, however, you find an ideal to live for: peace. Many now complain about the loss of ideals and values, but what about peace? Peace is not reserved for politicians, for specialists, for the military: everyone can be artisans of peace with the weak power of prayer and dialogue. This is the way to defeat the warlords and strategists.

From religions, without confusion but without separation, can gush out a people of peacemakers. It was the dream of 1986. Religions are called to greater boldness. They are called to exit the old schemes inherited from the past, they are called to leave behind timidity and resignation. We all have to be more daring, because the world is thirsting for peace. We must eliminate war for good that is the mother of all poverty. As it was done with slavery.

The audacity of peace is prayer and dialogue. Dialogue as the humble Orthodox theologian, Olivier Clément used to say  “is the key to the planet’s survival, in a world in which we have forgotten that war is never a surgically clean solution that allows to expel evil from the world. Dialogue is the heart of peace .”

Dialogue reveals that war and misunderstandings are not invincible. Nothing is lost with dialogue. Everything is possible with peace!