Here is a ZENIT translation of the Message that Pope Francis sent to participants in the 28th edition of the International Meeting for Peace that this year, 20 years after the end of the war in the Balkans, is being held in Tirana, Albania, from September 6-8, on the topic “Peace Is Always Possible – Religions and Cultures in Dialogue.”
The annual meeting is sponsored by the Sant’Egidio Community and is rooted in the 1986 interreligious meeting held by Pope St. John Paul II in Assisi.
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Distinguished representatives of the Christian Churches and Communities and of the great religions of the world, I give you all my respectful greetings and I express my spiritual closeness to the International Meeting for Peace that the Sant’Egidio Community has promoted at Tirana.
These meetings follow one another in the wake traced by Saint John Paul II with the first historic Meeting of Assisi in October of 1986. Since then a pilgrimage of men and women of different religions has developed that, year after year, makes a stage in different cities of the world. While the scenes of history change and people are called to confront profound and at times dramatic transformations, the necessity is increasingly perceived that the followers of different religions must meet, dialogue, walk together and collaborate for peace, in that “spirit of Assisi” that makes reference to the luminous testimony of Saint Francis.
This year you chose to make a stage at Tirana, capital of a country that has become a symbol of peaceful coexistence among different religions, after a long history of suffering. It is a choice that I share, as manifested with the visit I made to Tirana in September of last year. I wished to choose Albania as the first among European countries to visit, precisely to encourage the path of peaceful coexistence after the tragic persecutions endured by Albanian believers in the last century. The long list of martyrs still speaks today of that dark period, but it also speaks of the strength of the faith that does not let itself be bowed by the arrogance of evil. In no other country of the world was the decision so strong to exclude God from the life of a people: just one religious sign was enough to be punished with prison if not death. This very sad primacy marked the Albanian people profoundly, until the moment of their rediscovered freedom, when the members of the different religious communities, tried by the common suffering endured, met again to live together in peace.
Therefore, dear friends, I am particularly pleased for your having chosen Albania. I would like to confirm together with you today what I affirmed last year at Tirana: “A peaceful and fruitful coexistence between persons and communities of believers of different religions is not only desirable, but possible and realistic. The peaceful coexistence of different religious communities is, in fact, an inestimable benefit to peace and to harmonious human advancement. This is something of value which needs to be protected and nourished each day, by providing an education which respects differences and particular identities, so that dialogue and cooperation for the good of all may be promoted and strengthened by mutual understanding and esteem. It is a gift which we need to implore from God in prayer.” (Address to the Authorities, September 21, 2014). This is the spirit of Assisi: to live together in peace, recalling that peace and coexistence have a religious foundation. Prayer is always at the root of peace!
And precisely because it has its foundation in God, “peace is always possible,” as the title of your Meeting of this year affirms. It is necessary to reaffirm this truth especially today, while in some parts of the world violence, persecutions and abuses of power against religious freedom seem to prevail, together with resignation in face of the conflicts that they cause. We must never be resigned to war! And we cannot remain indifferent in face of those who suffer because of war and violence. Therefore I have chosen as the topic of the next World Day of Peace: “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace.”
However, it is also violence to erect walls and barriers to block those seeking a place of peace. It is violence to push back those fleeing from inhuman conditions in the hope of a better future. It is violence to exclude children and the elderly from society and from life itself! It is violence to widen the gulf between one that wastes the superfluous and one that lacks what is necessary!
In this our world, faith in God makes us believe and makes us cry out in a loud voice that peace is possible. It is faith that pushes us to trust in God and not to be resigned to the work of evil. As believers we are called to rediscover that universal vocation to peace deposited in the heart of our different religious traditions, and to propose it again with courage to the men and women of our time. And I reconfirm what I said in this connection again at Tirana speaking to the religious leaders: “Authentic religion is a source of peace and not of violence! No one must use the name of God to commit violence! To kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. To discriminate in the name of God is inhuman” (Address at the Inter-Religious Meeting).
Dear friends, it is not a naive affirmation to uphold that peace is always possible, but it expresses our faith that nothing is impossible for God. We are certainly asked for involvement, be it personal or of our communities, in the great work of peace. May a new prophecy of peace begin from the land of Albania, land of martyrs. I unite myself to you all, so that in the variety of religious traditions, we may continue to live the common passion for the growth of peaceful coexistence among all peoples of the earth.
From the Vatican, August 29, 2015
Memoria of the Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist
FRANCISCUS[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]