Religious Leaders See a Role for Nonbelievers

Palermo Meeting Sizes Up the Post-Sept. 11 World

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PALERMO, Sicily, SEPT. 3, 2002 ( The three-day meeting of world religious leaders ended with a procession and an awareness that the quest for peace and solidarity must involve nonbelievers as well.

More than 400 representatives of communities of believers converged on Politeama Square after they prayed with members of their own faith at separate sites around this Sicilian capital.

They proclaimed, signed and handed in the 2002 Appeal for Peace, in which they said «the pain of the world imposes on us to seek together, believers and nonbelievers, the ways of peace and solidarity.»

The annual meeting, organized by the lay movement Community of Sant’Egidio, focused on the implications of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The participants said the «whole world has need of hope: the hope of being able to live with the other, the hope of not being dominated by the memory of the damages suffered, the hope of constructing a world in which everyone can live with dignity.»

«Globalization cannot just be the free circulation of goods; it must also be the globalization of solidarity, of dialogue, of justice and of security for all,» their statement adds.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, attended the meeting. John Paul II sent a personal message for the event.

Other Christian participants included a delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Other conferees included Rabbi Rene Samuel Sirat of the Conference of Rabbis of Europe, and Mohammed Amine Samili, a Muslim theologian from Morocco. Also present was David Rosen of the American Jewish Congress, and Leila Shahid, a general delegate of Palestine based in Paris.

In the face of the «clash of civilizations,» the meeting’s participants committed themselves in their final declaration to «continue with determination on the way of dialogue.»

«It is the way to overcome division and conflicts,» the declaration states. «It is the way not to leave the world at the mercy of a faceless globalization that inevitably becomes cruel. Dialogue does not leave any one defenseless; it protects. It does not weaken; it reinforces.»

«Dialogue transforms the stranger into a friend and frees from violence. Nothing is lost with dialogue,» it says.

The text ends with an exhortation: «To whomever kills and makes war, in the name of God, we say: ‘Stop! Don’t kill! Violence is a defeat for all! Let us talk it over and God will enlighten us!'»

Discussions during the meeting also focused on the possible U.S. military attack against Iraq.

Vatican Radio reported Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, permanent observer of the Holy See at the United Nations in Geneva, as saying: «The conflict is not inevitable; the war against terrorism can become a new form of war.»

According to the archbishop, the state of law and just coexistence among people and cultures must be fostered in order to defeat the threat of terrorism.

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