APPEAL FOR PEACE
Women and Men of different religions, we have gathered in Antwerp upon the invitation of the Community of Sant’Egidio, in the heart of Europe, a land subject to the horror of the Great War that affected Europe and the World a century ago. We pay tribute to the memory of the many who died and once again we proclaim: War never again!
But today war has returned to Europe, and in other lands it overwhelms experiences of coexistence that have lasted thousands of years, causing sufferance to too many people.
We have heard the prayers of millions of refugees and fugitives, of people who beg not to die of hunger and thirst, of diseases that can be treated in other parts of the world; we have heard the pleas of dignity rising from the poor, the claims for justice of entire peoples and of the peripheries of the world.
The world was given great opportunities and time to build peace, to bridge gaps, to prevent conflicts before they became too severe. The world has wasted so many chances, but now is the time for decision, and not to be overcome by hopelessness.
War and violence in many parts of the world seek to redraw borders, communities, the way people look at each other. At the very time it has turned global, the world runs the risk of losing the sense of a common destiny.
There are profound diseases that make everything more difficult; division and hopelessness affect people and institutions, weakening them: religious communities, political and international structures and organizations.
Religions are called to question themselves: were they able to inspire the quest for a common destiny or were they caught up in a logic of conflict? There is plenty religions can do: they can inspire and give back a heart to the search for peace as the common destiny of all peoples.
Today we assume responsibility for peace, in a time when few people dream of peace.
The world religions affirm, stronger than before, that no war is ever holy, that the elimination of the other in God’s name is always blasphemy. The elimination of the other exploiting God’s name is only horror and terror. It sets people outside authentic religion, blinded by hatred, and destroys the religion they claim to defend.
In difficult times, we commit ourselves to defending the lives of those brothers and sisters of religions different from our own who are endangered.
Let us work together for the future of the world, aware that war is a great foolishness and peace is something too serious to make it the affair of a few. Dialogue is the cure for conflicts; it heals wounds and makes the future possible.
War is overcome only by peace. When the path of peace is not envisioned, only rubble and hatred are left. We need the audaciousness to think of peace, because either the future is peace or there is no future, for winners and losers alike.
To the younger generations we say: do not be fooled by the sad realism that says dialogue and prayer are useless. The world suffocates without prayer and dialogue.
Violence can be stopped. Whoever uses violence always discredits his or her cause. All is lost with war.
May God grant a future to the world. And that future is peace.
Antwerp, 9th September 2014