TOESPRAAK DOOR KRIS PEETERS
CONFERENTIE “VREDE IS DE TOEKOMST”
7 september 2014
Mr. President of the European Council,
Mr. Riccardi – Founder of the Sant’Egidio Community,
Honorable ministers and religious leaders,
Ladies and gentlemen,
To some people, the title of this conference may seem out of tune with the world we live in. A world that sees too many conflicts. Too many victims and refugees. But that is the wrong conclusion. Because especially at times like these, we have to continue to believe that ‘peace is the future’.
At times like these, more than ever, people who strive for peace, have to join forces. Across religions, across cultures, across borders.
Long-lasting peace is possible. It is a feeling we all share. And it is a point that has been proven right here, in Belgium. Today, we are the capital of the European Union, arguably the most impressive peace project man has ever seen. But this has not always been the case. Once, we were known as Europe’s battleground.
Indeed, Ladies and Gentlemen, our country is the example that long-lasting peace need not be an idle hope. But we are also proof that “peace” is a verb. We must remain ever vigilant for latent conflicts. For groups who want to misuse ethnic, religious or other differences in order to set people against each other. We need to continue to explore how our past experiences can continue to offer lessons for peace today.
Therefore, civil authorities and many organizations in our country are devoting considerable attention to the commemoration of the outbreak of World War I, exactly a century ago. We must not forget that a hundred years ago religion played a role in our conflict. On both sides of the trenches, "Gott mit uns," "Dieu le veut," "God with us" or "de Heer staat ons bij" was chanted. All too often such slogans drown out the voices of religious leaders who repeatedly call for peace.
Emmanuel Levinas once wrote how much "true, deep peace" has to do with the "mutual proximity" of people. To use the words of Levinas, we must “keep before our eyes and shoulder the vulnerability of the Other."
This international interreligious dialogue and prayer meeting is a wonderful addition to the wide range of peace initiatives undertaken to commemorate the centenary of the Great War.
I also would like to warmly congratulate Sant'Egidio, and I wish each of you a fruitful, productive, and peaceful conference.
Thank you very much.