AACHEN, Germany, SEPT. 10, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is the final call proclaimed by the more than 500 religious leaders who participated in the three-day “Men and Religions” meeting that ended here Tuesday.
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At the beginning of this Millennium, marked by hope and fear we, men and women of different religions, coming from so many parts of the world, have gathered in Aachen to invoke God’s great gift of peace: the peace that humanity, so often, cannot provide for itself.
In the heart of Europe we have looked at the world’s expectations of peace and justice, we have questioned ourselves about our responsibilities. We have encountered the suffering of the South of the world and of forgotten wars, of the victims of terror and of the fear which causes violence, of a planet impoverished and violated by an exploitation that consumes everything, even our common future. The appeals of prisoners and of those who have known only violence and never-ending wars since childhood have reached us. We have experienced the utter pessimism arising from the roots of this new century. The voices and cries, so often unspoken, of millions of poor people with no medicine, no care, no security, no freedom, no land, no water, no fundamental human rights, these voices and cries have come to us.
We have focused intently on our religious traditions, on our Holy Books, listening to God. God speaks of peace. We meditated and prayed. We felt the need to improve ourselves, achieving peace within us. For believers, peace is not only a commitment in the world, but also a gift to search for in our hearts.
Peace is in the depths of our religious traditions. Peace is the name of God. We tried to listen not only to our sorrow, but also to the sorrow of the other. This is why today without faltering, we resolutely choose anew the difficult path of dialogue in a world that seems to prefer conflict.
Dialogue leads towards peace. Dialogue is an art that tears us away from the shortsighted pessimism of those who say it is impossible to live together with the other, claiming that the wrongs we have suffered condemn us to never ending hatred. Dialogue is the path that can save the world from war.
We rediscovered the pride of dialogue. And dialogue is an art that religions, cultures, and those who have the most strength and power in the world must nurture.
Dialogue is not the choice of the fearful, nor of those who are afraid of fighting, it weakens nobody’s identity. It draws every man and every woman to see the best in others; to be rooted in the best part of oneself. Dialogue is a medicine that heals wounds and opens up the only destiny possible for people and religions: to live together on this planet, defending it and offering it to coming generations as more livable than today.
To those who think that a clash of civilizations is inevitable we say: free yourselves from this oppressive pessimism that creates a world full of walls and enemies, where it becomes impossible to live safely and in peace. Eventually the art of dialogue empties terror of its reasons and removes the grounds of injustice that precipitates resentment and violence.
To those who believe that the name of God can be used to vent hate and to wage war, to humiliate, and erase the life of others, we say: Peace is the name of God. Religions can never be used to justify hatred and violence. Fundamentalism is an infantile disease in any religion and any culture. The need to find an enemy to establish one’s own identity, only imprisons us: it separates one from others and presents violence as more worthy than peace.
To those who still kill, spread terrorism and wage war in the name of God we say: “Stop! Do not kill! Violence is a defeat for everybody! Let us deliberate together and God will illuminate us all!”
In Aachen we felt the need for a Europe that is capable of being more open to the spirit. We felt the need for a Europe capable of living with the South of the world and of being the expression of a democracy attentive to human rights, so that we can contribute in a decisive way to the third millennium.
From Aachen we have addressed God with a profound and common prayer for peace. May God grant to every man and every woman, may God grant every ruler, the farsighted and realistic patience of dialogue. May God free everyone from the illusion of a just and purifying war. God is stronger than those who want war. God is stronger than those who cultivate hatred. God is stronger than those who live violence.
May God grant our new century the wonderful gift of peace.
Aachen, September 9th, 2003