Religious Leaders at Aachen Urge Dialogue for Sake of Peace

International Summit Ends With an Appeal

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AACHEN, Germany, SEPT. 10, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The international meeting "Men and Religions," which gathered more than 500 religious leaders, ended with a call for peace.



"God speaks of peace," says the statement, which closed the meeting called by the Community of Sant'Egidio, a Rome-based lay Catholic association.

For "believers, peace is not only a commitment in the world, but also a gift to search for in our hearts," the statement adds. "Peace is in the depths of our religious traditions. Peace is the name of God."

"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," the text notes.

"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 participants stress.

The Aachen document states that 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 tried to listen not only to our sorrow, but also to the sorrow of the other," the leaders continue. "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 toward peace" and "is the path that can save the world from war," they say. "Dialogue is not the choice of the fearful, nor of those who are afraid of fighting, it weakens nobody's identity."

"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," the text notes, which was signed with the consensus of those attending the meeting in the German city.

"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," exhorts the statement.

"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," the appeal says.

"Fundamentalism is an infantile disease in any religion and any culture," it contends. "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!'"

The appeal for peace may be signed online at www.santegidio.org/en/index.html.