Mister President of the Central African Republic
Distinguished Leaders of the great world religions
On behalf of the Community of Sant’Egidio I would like to welcome all those who participate to this meeting, whose significance I will reflect upon. However, not before I have thanked Mr. Cardinal Don Carlos Osoro Sierra, who wanted Madrid to be, for some days, a capital of dialogue, believing that dialogue, not borders, will save us. Thank you Mr. Cardinal!
Peace without borders may sound utopian. Are not borders a barrier against instability? The borders, which have been marked throughout the centuries, identify countries and are linked to their national identities: like the walls of a house providing intimacy and identity to a family. Besides, borders exist also between religions and Churches, which are distinguished by different spiritual experiences and theological contents. To live in the global world, we all need a house with a bounded perimeter. A nation, a language, a culture represent a house. In this time, we need it also to protect ourselves from the chilly winds of a levelling, oppressing, wholly economic and commercial globalization, which wipes out cultures and roots. The destruction of identities leads to rootlessness, a fertile ground for fanaticism and radicalism.
The problem is not the existence of borders. Rather it is how we interpret borders in a large and sometimes terrible word. Borders that are rejecting or imbued with hatred often, destroy the world, create a treacherous and conflictual climate. Throughout the roundtables and debates of this conference, many aspects of global coexistence will be discussed. The issue, that perturbs us, is peace. Somebody might say that, worded this way, it is vague and should rather be articulated along specialized perspectives. This might be naïve, but let me say the unified vision of peace is the one religions inherited: this peace embraces everybody and ranges from the end of conflicts to the relationships between people, up to to the dimension of the heart. In this line – I believe – the speech of Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokalamsk, who is present with an important delegation of the Russian Church.
Men and women of faith are described by religious texts as those who turn their eyes to the sky, beyond the borders. The sky cannot be imprisoned within borders. We want to describe peace as a global significance, even if the unified meaning of this great idea has been lost. There is little sense of alert for the ongoing conflicts, the war menaces, and the overheated borders. We are too accustomed to the absence of peace and we are content with the fact that war is far away from us. However, in the globalized world – as terrorism shows – nobody is safe, unless from a more encompassing peace.
My borders do not protect me! Let’s think about the ecological issues that nowadays many finally perceive as decisive, while until recently they have been considered matters for experts. If we want to save our country from destruction, we have to save the earth! There are problems that cannot be solved without perspectives and actions beyond borders.
We have still not worked out the instruments to act upon the environment in a global way. Pope Francis denounced it in the encyclical Laudato sì, where he says “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth”. This text is a cry of alarm for the plundering of the earth, becoming more and more inhabitable for the future generations. From the cry of pain, in the encyclical, a prayer flows: “O God of the poor, ….. / Bring healing to our lives/, that we may protect the world /and not prey on it, t/hat we may sow beauty, /not pollution and destruction.”
We are too little tools to act on a global scale. The consequences of ecological disasters do not stop at the borders: they involve everyone. When Amazonia burns, we all burn with the great forest! The earth show us that we are all concretely bounded. Religions have been teaching this for millennia: humanity, persons, and peoples all have one common destiny. Religious humanism has always sensed it, even if sometimes it has forgotten it.
Bauman, at our 2016 meeting in Assisi, stated in front of the religious leaders: “We are all dependent on each other and we cannot go back to the past: actually we handle this cosmopolitan realty with the same tools of our ancestors who lived in a bounded reality. However, it is a trap”. He was right: we handle a global reality with policies and instruments of the past, which are inadequate for the present dimensions. With an excellent summary, Bauman pointed to the double effects of globalization: “it divides as well as unites; it divides while it unites….” The walls fall and the walls rise again at the same time. It is what we are experiencing now.
An anniversary prevails to our attention, November 9, 1989: thirty years ago the Berlin Wall fell down and the Cold War world of closed borders and walls ended. 1989 was the great surprise of a peaceful change. It came unexpected to almost all the people and the politicians. Let’s remember that - a few days before the fall of the Berlin Wall – a far-sighted politician, the German Chancellor Kohl, while speaking with the Polish Foreign Ministry Geremek (I like to remember Geremek, a frequent guest of our meetings), said: “we both know well that we will not live enough to see Germany united again”. The Wall, instead, fell soon after and the process of globalization set off quickly.
I recall a memory of the history of our meetings in the spirit of Assisi. We were in Warsaw on 1st September 1989 for the prayer for peace: much was fermenting between hopes and uncertainty, while the threads of dialogue were tied again together. I remember those days as full of memories of the Second World War in Poland, which had suffered so greatly. The heart of the meeting was a dream of peace that seemed closer: “war never again!”
We nurture, since then, the entrenched certainty the economic and political globalization has to be combined to a spiritual globalization. This is the contribution of our annual gatherings. Thirty years ago globalization has begun. Many interpreted it as the inauguration of a time of peace. There was a great drive in the life of peoples: people have started to look beyond the borders, to feel part of a shared destiny, to nourish a larger vision. After 1989, it felt globalization could stimulate unitive processes: religious, ecumenical, and cultural too. Though – looking at the past decades – we are to admit globalization has revealed itself as an economic giant, while the spiritual humanism has unfortunately only remained the size of a dwarf. Hence, in the dizziness of success and the arrogance of the economic interests, the global world lost the enthusiasm for peace; has lost the generosity within the global vision as only driven by incomplete interests: has recognized value in the border from the others. Behind that border, people fade away, as if they did not exist or represented a threat. In the global world, just few were truly global visions; just a few were nourished by a large and generous spirit.
In thirty years, new borders have raised. Let us think of those drew after the end of the Soviet Union. Where some borders were relativized as it has happened in the European Union, others have heated and fighting broke out to create new ones. Some are not borders, rather walls: driven by military or defensive motives, or to stop migrants, to protect the national space. The global world sees significant movement, of migrants and refugees, in a number unknown to history, still borders propose again. The matter of migrants and refugees comes across so strongly, it is impossible to resolve it through the choices of the individual countries. Filippo Grandi, whom I greet, is a witness of it! In absence of broad visions, antagonistic national or nationalistic perspectives resume, simplified reactions to a globalization that appears intimidating, a simplification that seems to shield from complex issues. I am not willing to leave way to alarmism. On the other hand, one cannot live the present and its complex and interconnected challenges without seeking for a large vision, with the breath of a worldwide humanism.
There is another anniversary to recall: 1st September 1939, where the Nazi troops violated Polish borders and the most horrible war broke out among Europeans, quickly turning into a world war that has devoured millions of people, bringing death, devastation, horror, genocides, unthinkable for the human mind, still certainly happened. I bow to a witness of that war and of the Shoah, a child of Buchenwald, Rabbi Meir Lau. The memory of that war is a warning of the horror any war is.
Out of the crucible of suffering of the war, eighty years ago, a strong awareness arose for the respect for sovereignty and the freedom of peoples, and the human rights. The philosophy and the function for the United Nations is rooted there. Since the second world war, the process for nuclear armament initiated, a path that – despite the crucial achievements of the last decades – is experiencing today a worrying comeback. September 1, 1939 was the beginning of the globalization of hatred and war, as never before in the history of humanity. It reveals how a war with no borders leads to great evil and suffering! It reminds peace is never for granted and the logic of conflict can aggressively drag political will and crush them in the system. Today there is no peacemaker, even young, who can avoid confronting himself with the heritage of the generations of the war.
The complex reality of the contemporary world cannot be simplified through either the brutal cutting of borders, or vested interests. It is multifaceted – as Pope Francis often has mentioned. It needs to be inhabited by a fabric made of an articulated and insightful dialogue. This the reason we are loyal to the “Spirit of Assisi”, bearer of the encounter, dialogue and friendship, blowing since 1986. A last fruit of this spirit, just last February, is the innovative and robust document on human fraternity for world peace and living together, singed in Abu Dhabi by Pope Francis and the great Imam of Al Azhar, Al Tayyb, that shows as a way for peace: “Dialogue, understanding and the widespread promotion of a culture of tolerance, acceptance of others and of living together peacefully”.
We must not be accepting towards the heavy reasoning of vested interests, as the great ones of the world are turning into. Often the poor, in their need, grasp the direction. The path of the spirit opens roads, units, releases the dialogue. Indeed, it is a real strength.
Despite its intense course, dialogue belongs deeply to religion, as to any culture where humanism prevails. Religions nurture the “transcendent root of dialogue” as a spiritual man from 20th century used to say. Dialogue and universalism, through different paths, are rooted in the chromosomes and in the experience of religions. Indeed, roots bear fruit. Borders exist, though they cannot turn into walls or draw the future. Believers go beyond them through the glance of their heart and with the word of dialogue. The Psalm 60 reassures us in its simplicity, by saying: “From the end of the earth I call to you, Lord”.