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Andrea Riccardi

Historian, Founder of the Community of Sant'Egidio

Dearest friends

While this meeting in the spirit of Assisi draws to an end, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the authorities, the Albanian friends who, in every way, enabled its success withtheir hospitality and friendliness. This meeting was made possible by the worknot only of the Community of Sant’Egidio,but also by the efforts of the Albanian Orthodox Church, by those of the Catholic Church, together with the Muslim community and the Bektashi community.Thisis a beautiful sign of workingtogether.

We are at the 29th meeting in the spirit of Assisi: this spirit is human and spiritual hospitality towards the other – as rabbi Rosen put it:hospitality for the problems of our times, generating an invocation and action to achieve peace. This spirit does not age, and it stems from its ancient spring on the Assisi hill, it is a spirit whichis ahead of us.

From Albania, from this part of Europe, from the religious leaders gathered here, a clear and ponderedmessage is delivered: religions consider peace as holy; they pray and strive for peace. They do so first of all by addressing the hearts and minds of human beings. They are aware of the fact – as dear Archbishop Anastasios said –that the opposite of peace is not war, but self-centeredness, a form of violence in itself. Religions believe it is necessary to speak to the heart of people, to transform it from the inside, to liberate it from the domination of ego, from the worship of omnipotence or the prison of resignation. Change begins with oneself and no one can stop it. Religions remind us thatunless we change our heart, it will not be possible to create a new world, or that new world will immediately turn into the worst world possible.Unless people convert their heart, and behavior, they will not respect creation.

How many wars are waged to build a new world or to defend one’s own interest!And how horrible are its results!Enslaved women. Families without a home and a motherland.Children embarking on inhuman journeys.And deaths, so many deaths.What a waste of human life!We are too well acquainted with this waste, withdeath as a consequence of war and of the long journeys of despair!

From Tirana, a challenge rises: may a new movement of hearts and minds, of willingness for peace be born, be born again! Indeed a new peace movement! This quest originates from the depths of religions. It stems from disgust forwar, from the cry of the suffering. A peace movement that draws its inspiration from religious faith, without losing hope when faced with war and pain.As Tenacious asa tireless prayer, as tenacious as an endless dream.

It is necessary to bring to light the desire for peace and good that exists in peoples: pleading, asking, protesting, advocating, invoking is not useless, for peace is always possible.European peoples, in spite of their fears, have shown quite a welcoming face to refugees. Too eagerly we accept the idea that there is no positive energy in the heart of peoples. We must bring these to light, as they are a deep and hidden strength. We want to continue upholding an ideal, simple but crucial, the ideal that comes from the spirit of Assisi. I express this through the words of Pope Francis:“to live a shared passion for the growth of peaceful coexistence among all the peoples of the earth”.

A wise man, born close to the southern Albanian border in times of conflict between nations, Patriarch Athenagoras, used to say: “All peoples are good…. they all need love. If they are evil, perhaps it is because they have never experienced true love... whichradiates light and life”.Themission of religionsis to make people experience that love that radiates light and life, that love that reestablishes the desire for peace, for welcoming, for good.

Human and spiritual energies for a better world are out there. To overcome war.To build a happier world.Have we forgotten this? Religions remind this to a forgetful and fearful humankind. Together with all men and women of goodwill, they testifythat peace is always possible. With this strong conviction and great hope, we can look at even the darkest and most warmongering horizons. Peace is always possible. We have to seek it, fearlessly.