"Dialogue or Die," Says Sant'Egidio Founder

500 Religious Leaders Gather for Meeting on Peace

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AACHEN, Germany, SEPT. 7, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Organizers of a major meeting on religions and world peace are sounding a warning.

«Without dialogue, this world will die,» said Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio, a lay association that is organizing the three-day meeting here.

Five hundred religious leaders from around the world and thousands of people are meeting through Tuesday in the 2003 edition of «Men, Religions and Peace.» The event is held annually in a different city.

«The meeting is taking place at a delicate time for the religious realms, in which dialogue cannot be taken for granted,» Riccardi said. The motto of this year’s meeting is «Between War and Peace: Religions and Cultures Meet.»

Among those on hand today at the meeting were Cardinal Karl Lehmann, president of the German Catholic bishops’ conference, and Nikolaus Schneider, president of the Evangelical Church of the Rhineland.

Other religious figures included Metropolitan Kyrill, in charge of Foreign Relations for the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church; former Chief Rabbi Meir Lau of Israel; and Mehmet Aydin, Turkish Minister of State.

The event features talks and workshops, on topics ranging from war and abolition of capital punishment, to the environment, prayer and immigration.

A final statement will be published on Tuesday calling for peace and dialogue. Supporters may sign the appeal online.

Sant’Egidio began these meetings in the wake of the first interreligious prayer meeting convoked by John Paul II in Assisi, Italy, in 1987.

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