– Written by Andrea Riccardi – Founder of Sant’Egidio
The appointment relaunched by Pope Francis, because “the virus makes us understand that we are in the same boat.”
For Thursday, May 14, a day of prayer, fasting and works of mercy was proposed by the High Committee for Human Fraternity, composed of leaders inspired by the Abu Dhabi document for World Peace and Living Together. This text was signed by Pope Francis and the great imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb, in February 2019. It states: “religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism … [For] God, the Almighty, has no need to be defended by anyone and does not want His name to be used to terrorize people.”
It is a proposal of fraternity open to all believers in the world, which wants to inspire fraternal and responsible behaviour, starting from the different religious faiths of each person. Today the situation is serious. The world has been hit by Covid-19.
The question that worries many is how to get out of the crisis and build a better future. To achieve it, we will not be able to move forward as before, divided, indifferent or in conflict. Pope Francis expressed it well in his prayer for the end of the illness: “We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other.”
Being in the same boat as humanity implies the commitment to “row together.” It is a difficult consciousness to communicate in an individualistic world. Not only that: we are in a time of nationalism, for which the presumed national interest is pursued, regardless of others or against others.
However, religions, in different ways, tend to show that the destiny of humanity is one. It is not taken for granted because, as seen from fundamentalisms, they can also be used to bless conflicts or sacralize divisions. John Paul II sensed that the religious world was at a crossroads when, in 1986, he invited the leaders of world religions to Assisi to pray alongside one another and no longer – as he said – against one another. It was a prophetic gesture that showed the way in the long run. The Assisi journey then continued in a sequence of meetings, which created familiarity and communication between leaders and believers of different religions.
There was a real spiritual growth, countercurrent to the culture of the clash of civilizations and between religions spread between the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century. In the line of brotherhood is the document signed by Francis and al-Tayyeb in February 2019 which other religious leaders joined in the past year.
The day of prayer, fasting and mercy on May 14 was born to “implore God to help humanity to overcome the pandemic of coronavirus,” explained the Committee, inviting all believers to be involved. In a world where economic interests have become globalized, but where national policies remain divided and conflictual, the “global” harmony in prayer and feelings between Jews, Christians, Muslims and other believers is a powerful and humble sign of a spiritual globalization that speaks, through our differences, of the unity of humanity: only together will we succeed in laying the foundations of a new civilization.