ROME, MARCH 5, 2002 (ZENIT.org–Avvenire).- The phrase “We commit ourselves” is repeated 10 times in the “Assisi Decalogue for Peace” that John Paul II sent to all heads of state and government on Monday.
Historian Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant´Egidio, and a key figure of the Days of Prayer, interpreted the decalogue as “a refined message in its contents but popular in its impact, as the pictures of the Assisi meetings for peace of 1986, 1994, and those of a month ago, prove.”
Q: What meaning do you attribute to this decalogue?
Riccardi: The first Assisi meeting in October 1986 was linked to the great hope for peace that emerged from the ruins of the Cold War; an enthusiasm that surpassed the perplexities elicited by that unheard-of meeting of religions.
This time the Assisi meeting took place in a world that is disoriented and disillusioned, which finds it difficult to discern its future, enveloped as it is in a cloud of violence. In this setting, undoubtedly more difficult, the peace initiative invites one, with the 10 commitments, to look at a world no longer without war, as in 1986, but with a shared hope.
Q: Hope, yes, but, being realistic, of what?
Riccardi: Of coexistence in the name of religion, an itinerary of peace and no longer a pretext for war. The Assisi Decalogue is impressive because of the fact that peace has become a joint commitment, going much further, therefore, than the appeal to overcome warlike confrontations.
Moreover, with the meeting one month ago, the Pope has demonstrated that religions wish to cooperate effectively in a great cause, without entailing confusions and contrasts, without renouncing their own identity or their specific points of view. Because of this, I say that the Assisi message of 2002 is at once culturally and religiously refine but also acceptable at the grass-roots level.
Q: Will the heads of state understand the words of the Assisi Decalogue?
Riccardi: It is all in the hands and hearts of those who were in Assisi and have made the commitment their own. If there is an awareness of the personal responsibility to spread these words, then the sowing will continue in the respective religious communities, and it will be a work of witness vis-à-vis the communities of believers. The decalogue tells us that the spirit of Assisi can spread around the world.
Q: The simple number of victims in the Middle East over the past three days, to give but one example, might discourage even the most hopeful.
Riccardi: I can understand the skepticism, but we also need hope. And, a text like the one we have in hand today interprets, precisely, the extraordinary expectation of hope that words of peace create.