World Religious Leaders United in Assisi to Reject Violence

Most Representative Interreligious Meeting in History

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ASSISI, Italy, JAN. 24, 2002 ( At what was possibly the most representative interreligious meeting in history, leaders at the Day of Prayer for Peace voiced support for a common theme: «violence never again.»

More than 200 leaders of the world´s religions united to declare: «Violence never again! War never again! Terrorism never again! In the name of God, may every religion bring upon the earth justice and peace, forgiveness and life, love!»

The gathering was convoked by John Paul II in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and fallout. Never until today had Christian leaders of all denominations participated in the same meeting.

Even the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow was represented, which in the past rejected all papal invitations of this kind.

The Day of Prayer ended by uniting Sikhs, Confucians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, animists, Christians of all denominations, and believers of other creeds in a «Joint Commitment to Peace.»

Passages of the declaration, subscribed to by all, were read by different religious leaders.

Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople began the declaration by recalling the golden rule present in religions: «Do to others what you would have them do to you.»

The Reverend Konrad Raiser of the World Council of Churches read the joint commitment of Christians when he proclaimed «our firm conviction that violence and terrorism are incompatible with the authentic spirit of religion» and that «the root causes of terrorism» must be eliminated.

Bhai Sahibji Singh, the Sikh representative, confirmed the commitment to educate «people to mutual respect and esteem.»

Metropolitan Pitrim, vicar of the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow, read the passage expressing commitment «to fostering the culture of dialogue.»

Metropolitan Jovan, of the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate, confirmed everyone´s right «to live a decent life in accordance with their own cultural identity.»

Muslim representative Sheikh Abdel Salam Abushukhadaem read in Arabic of the need to respect people´s differences and to foment «greater reciprocal understanding.»

Bishop Vasilios of the Cypriot Orthodox Church expressed in Greek the commitment to forgive «one another for past and present errors and prejudices.»

Korean Chang-Gyou Choi, who represented Confucianism, committed himself «to taking the side of the poor and the helpless,» as «no one can be happy alone.»

Muslim Hojjatoleslam Ghomi took up «the cry of those who refuse to be resigned to violence and evil» by promoting «justice and peace.»

Buddhist Nichiko Niwano spoke in Japanese, encouraging «solidarity and understanding between peoples,» as «technological progress exposes the world to a growing risk of destruction and death.»

French Rabbi Samuel Rene Sirat urged «leaders of nations» in Hebrew to create «a world of solidarity and peace based on justice.»

Speaking in English, Mesach Krisetya of the World Mennonite Conference said that «security, freedom and peace will never be guaranteed by force but by mutual trust.»

John Paul II ended the joint declaration, saying: «Violence never again! War never again! Terrorism never again! In the name of God, may every religion bring upon the earth justice and peace, forgiveness and life, love!»

During the declaration, the religious leaders held a lamp in their hands, the «light of hope,» designed for the occasion by an artist nun.

At the conclusion of the solemn commitment, the Pope and the representatives placed their lamps on a tripod, which will remain in St. Francis´ Basilica in memory of this historic event.

The Holy Father then broke with the organizers´ program, and took time to greet the religious leaders. This caused a delay in the return of the «peace train,» which brought the 250 representatives of various religions to Assisi from the Vatican.

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