Franciscans Want to Go on a Mission of Peace to Afghanistan

Reminiscent of Francis´ Trek 800 Years Ago

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ROME, OCT. 14, 2001 ( A group of Franciscan friars, members of an itinerant fraternity, hope to go on a peace mission to Afghanistan.

The itinerant fraternity comprises friars from various continents, between 35 and 40 years of age. Among them is an American. The Franciscans wish to emulate St. Francis who, 800 years ago, went to see Sultan Malek El-Kamil.

«However, in going to Afghanistan, we must think of the Franciscans of Pakistan, who might suffer direct consequences of such a gesture,» the Minister General of the order, Father Giacomo Bini, told the Italian newspaper Avvenire.

Yet, the Minister General sees the initiative as a prophetic gesture.

«Our peace is called Jesus Christ, and it is a peace that does not seek immediate, effective results, but is made up of small gestures that open new horizons,» he said. «It is a peace that combats every form of vengeance and hatred, choosing ways of reconciliation and communion. However, only God knows the time and way.»

The gesture is in keeping with the Franciscan charism, he said.

«We have a special methodology of peace and reconciliation,» the Minister General explained. «For us, the commitment to peace is expressed with our presence in areas where there is opposition, divisions, tensions. We go there and behave, simply, as Christians.»

Francis himself sent his followers to Muslim countries. «Since then, we are present in Morocco, where we are respected and work with youth,» Father Bini continued. «We have communities in Libya and Egypt, with Arab brothers who direct schools attended by students who, in the majority, are Muslims.»

The Franciscans are also present in Central Asia. «There are more than 40 brothers in Pakistan, all natives of the country, who live in a Muslim environment with a great spirit of peace and respect for all,» Father Bini said.

Peace is built by working at «different levels,» he said. He noted that Mother Teresa «worked with the poor; the Community of Sant´Egidio calls meetings of leaders; we, Franciscans, live in contact with Muslims.»

«What is important is not to say that it is impossible,» the Franciscan leader said. «Today, the relation between Christians and Muslims is contaminated by fundamentalism, but we must try to build, even in a modest way, new relations.»

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