Friday, November 04, 2011

Prayers for Peace

In late October of 1986 Pope John Paul II brought leaders from different religious traditions to Assissi in Italy, the hometown of St. Francis to prayer for peace. At that groundbreaking event he said:

"For the first time in history, we have come together from every where, Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities, and World Religions, in this sacred place dedicated to Saint Francis, to witness before the world, each according to his own conviction, about the transcendent quality of peace. The form and content of our prayers are very different, as we have seen, and there can be no question of reducing them to a kind of common denominator. Yes, in this very difference we have perhaps discovered anew that, regarding the problem of peace and its relation to religious commitment, there is something which binds us together."

Twenty five years later, in the same place, Pope Benedict brought together about 60 Catholics, 60 Orthodox and Protestant Christians, 65 Muslims, 65 Buddhists, eight Jews, seven Hindus, six Shintos, five Sikhs, four non-believers, three Confucists, three Taoists, one Jain, one Baha'i and one Zoroastrian. That covers most of the world religions. In his address Benedict said:

"As a Christian I want to say at this point: yes, it is true, in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian faith. We acknowledge it with great shame. But it is utterly clear that this was an abuse of the Christian faith, one that evidently contradicts its true nature."

The religious leaders made a common pledge:"We commit ourselves to educating people to mutually respect and honor each other in order to help bring about peaceful and fraternal co-existence between people of different ethnic groups, cultures and religions."

I find this story encouraging in the midst of other disquieting stories of religious strife and extremism, other than the obvious absence of women. Why do we seldom hear the encouraging accounts of cooperation and seeking common ground amongst religions?


Anonymous said...

I think there is a universal fear of the "other" that makes any true stab at co-operation difficult. I think the fear of hersey in all religions has the potential to border on collective [or sanctioned?] psychosis. We're paranoid by nature, suspicious of ideas not our own. Is my sense of peace truly compatable with yours?How can this be if our points of view are so vastly different? What is your motivation to seek my cooperation? Is that motivation the same as mine? Is it trustworthy? Personally I think paranoia is constantly working behind the scenes, like an evil little whisper.

lionlamb said...

Thoughtful and well said Lori-Ann.