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September 12 2017 | MÜNSTER, GERMANY

#pathsofpeace: world religions launch a movement to prevent conflicts. Next year's appointment in Bologna

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To end ongoing conflicts, terrorism that kills innocent people and any form of violence, because all suffer from it, especially the poor and the most fragile of the earth. From Osnabrück, in the heart of Germany that succeeded to reconcile catholics and protestants at war 400 years ago, came a strong appeal for peace. Leaders of world religions presented it to the world in the presence of a people coming from all over Europe. They have signed an important statement that dissociates christians, muslims, jews and a number of oriental faiths present at the international meeting "Paths of Peace" from violence in the name of God.

There were catholics together with protestants, imams, rabbis, representatives of hinduism and buddhism. For three days, in the nearby city of Münster, they have talked  about how religions are being instrumentalised to inflame the world. And how, on the other hand, religions could save the world, returning its soul that tends to lose itself because of a globalisation "that has been directed at economy and the market too much" and not at mankind.

Many people have come to Germany from all over Europe to attend the meeting that the Community of Sant'Egidio promotes yearly in the "spirit of Assisi", a movement of dialogue that started after the great World Day for Peace that was organised by John Paul II in 1986 and has since then grown with the participation of many religious leaders and common people in different parts of the world. It is a network of believers in dialogue that has already brought fruits of peace. Like the agreement that brought an end to the conflict in Mozambique 25 years ago, a conflict that had killed a million people. From then until now this also has happened in other parts of the world.

On the day of the opening ceremony, chancellor Merkel talked about how Europe should be a resource of peace. The grand imam of Al-Azhar, Al-Tayyeb, defined terrorism as "a foundling of whom we do not know the parents." Together with the president of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou and the president of the European parliament Antonio Tajani they have opened the conference. Among the other participants were environmentalist Jeffrey Sachs, cardinal Philippe Ouedraogo, archbishop of Ouagadougou, the African city that was victimized by a second grave terroristic attack one month ago, and many other witnesses of lands that suffer, like father Solalinde, who talked about Mexico that is suffering from drug traffic and the tragedy of rejected immigrants. Another participant was the cardinal of Bangui, Dieudonné Nzaplainga, an agent of peace in the tortured Republic of Central Africa.

In the final ceremony, the founder of Sant’Egidio Andrea Riccardi invited everyone "not to give up" in the face of violence and "not to accept indifference" when we are confronted with "the pain of others." We need to become "artisans of peace." At the square in Osnabrück that was full of people, the Armeni catholic archbishop of Aleppo, Boutros Marayati, has given voice to the "cry of women, men and children" of his city, who are waiting to finally regain "a new life by forgiveness and reconciliation." They have all signed a strong urgent appeal to open new "paths of peace." They handed over the appeal to a group of children originating from different continents who, in a moving procession, have then entrusted the appeal to the political and institutional leaders present. "The world needs peace like it needs bread," it is read in the appeal. "Globalisation has reunited economy but it didn't reunite the hearts." For religions the moment has come to be "more bold", to look further than their own horizons. Their invitation is to bring war to an end, to have mercy with who suffers.

The "pilgrims of peace" of the different religions have promised to enlarge their network to prevent conflicts and to involve many others in this commitment to dialogue and encounter. And already there is a new appointment on the calendar: in Bologna, next year, all are invited by archbishop Matteo Zuppi, for the next edition of the Prayer for Peace in the “spirit of Assisi”.

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