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IPDAL shares the Holy See’s message of peace, transmitted by the Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, on the occasion of the III Mafra Dialogues, on April 28th.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends,

It is with pleasure that I accepted the invitation of Mr. Paulo Neves, President of the Institute for the Promotion of Latin America and the Caribbean, to address this third edition of the “Mafra Dialogues” and discuss the value of interreligious dialogue as a fundamental tool of peace and diplomacy.

We live in an era in which peace is something more desired than actually sought. This is one of the reasons why Pope Francis believes that we are currently experiencing a third world war that is being fought little by little. We all have the conflict in Ukraine before our eyes. It has received wide media coverage. However, there are currently 27 ongoing conflicts around the world and none of them can be described as “improving”. Globally, conflict and violence are on the rise, with 3.2 billion people living in conflict-affected areas. That’s more than a third of the world’s population! Not to mention the 84 million people who were forcibly displaced last year due to conflict, violence and human rights violations. This year alone, it is estimated that at least 274 million people will need humanitarian assistance (https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/facts-about-world-conflicts) .

In this current situation we face, a spontaneous question arises: what is peace and where is it? Pope Francis, in last year’s message for World Peace Day, wrote: “In every age, peace is both a gift from above and the fruit of a shared commitment. Indeed, we can speak of an ‘architecture.’ of peace, to which different institutions of society contribute, and an ‘art’ of peace that directly involves each one of us.” (Pope Francis, Message for the 55th World Day of Peace, January 1, 2022.)

The promotion of peace cannot be limited to just craftsmanship, reduced to a collection of good ideas or an enchantment of good feelings. To truly say goodbye to war, we need to do more than simply say we welcome peace. In fact, peace is never as simple as the heart imagines, but it is simpler than reason believes. Faced with the complexity and tangle of problems, we are tempted to tell ourselves that peace depends on more experienced hands than mine. Of course, peace needs experts, but it is also in the hands of each one of us, through thousands of small everyday gestures. Every day, through the way we live with others, we make a choice for or against peace. How many people today are ready to protest or sign a manifesto and yet live selfishly without even considering dialogue? How many citizens do we see today asking the government to take positions that they themselves dare not take in their own lives? Educating for peace is making each person a herald of peace, it is helping others reach their potential as builders of peace.

Peace is a universal value and duty, an objective of social coexistence. Therefore, we cannot simply reduce it to the absence of war or even a stable balance between opposing forces. Rather, the deeper nature of peace is based on a correct conception of the human person and requires the construction of an order in accordance with justice and charity. So the peace we truly desire is not based on weapons deterrence.

We must seek a peace that is the fruit of justice, that respects all dimensions that concern the human being. Peace is in danger when every human person does not receive what is due to them and their dignity is not recognized. In other words, peace is at risk when coexistence is not oriented towards the common good. Peace must include, but must not be limited to, the prevention of conflict and violence, and must be lived as a deep value within each person.

In this sense, waiting for a conflict or war to begin before seeking peace means resorting to remedies only when an emergency arises. Instead, peace must be built in the day-to-day, as we seek to put our lives in order and the world we live in to God’s will. We must desire a peace that is also the fruit of love. As the words of St. Thomas Aquinas remind us, “true and lasting peace is more a matter of love than of justice, because the function of justice is only to eliminate the obstacles to peace: the injury caused or the harm done. Peace itself, however, is an act and results only from love.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 29, a. 3, ad 3) .

Sixty years ago, Pope John XXIII argued in Pacem in Terris, how “in this age which prides itself on its atomic power, it no longer makes sense to maintain that war is an adequate instrument for redressing the violation of justice.” Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, 127.) ” Likewise, John Paul II said, “war cannot be an adequate means to completely resolve the problems existing between nations. Never was and never will be! (Pope John Paul II, Appeal for peace in the Persian Gulf during a message during a meeting with the collaborators of the Vicariate of Rome. January 17, 1991.) ” This is because it inevitably generates new, increasingly complex conflicts. When it breaks out, war becomes a senseless massacre, an adventure with no return, compromising the present and putting the future of Humanity at risk. As Pope Pius XII said in August 1939: “Nothing is lost with peace. Everything can be lost with war (Pius XIII, Radio message, August 24, 1939.) “.

Continuing with this thought, Pope Francis emphasized that “all wars leave our world worse than it was before. War is a failure of politics and humanity, a shameful capitulation, a painful defeat in the face of the forces of evil (Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti, 261.) “.

It should be obvious to all of us that peace is urgently needed. Today, even more than in the past, each military conflict or focus of tension and confrontation necessarily has a “domino effect” and seriously compromises the entire international system.

At the same time, peace can also have its own “domino effect”. It is aptly called the “justice effect” (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes, 78.) . Peace comes from fraternity. It grows through the fight against injustice and inequality; is built by extending a hand to others (Cf. Pope Francis, Speech on the occasion of the reading of the Final Declaration and Conclusion of the VII Congress of World and Traditional Religions, “Independence Palace” (Nur-Sultan), September 15, 2022.).

There is an urgent need for a common, supportive and comprehensive commitment to protect and promote the dignity and good of all, a willingness to demonstrate care and compassion, work for reconciliation and healing, and advance mutual respect and acceptance. This represents a privileged path to peace (Pope Francis, Message for the 54th World Day of Peace 1, 2021.) .

Religions must be at the forefront of promoting peace, especially at a time when we are witnessing the fragmentation of politics and growing skepticism in diplomacy. The faithful must be on the front line in promoting peaceful coexistence, and showing that peace is possible, witnessing peace, preaching peace and imploring peace (Cf. Ibid) .

It is undeniable that Humanity needs religion if it wants to achieve the objective of lasting peace, as religion is a compass that guides us towards good and keeps us away from evil, which is always lurking at the door of a person’s heart (cf. Gen 4:7). “Religions, therefore, have an educational task: to help bring out the best in each person. We […] have a great responsibility in order to offer authentic answers to the men and women who are searching, and who are often lost among the tumultuous contradictions of our time.” (Pope Francis, Speech during the Interreligious Meeting with the Sheikh and Representatives of the Different Religious Communities of Azerbaijan, “Heydar Aliyev” Mosque – Baku, Azerbaijan, October 2, 2016.) .

Religions, which help to discern the good and put it into practice through concrete works, prayer and a diligent cultivation of the inner life, are called to build a culture of encounter and peace, based on patience, understanding, through steps humble but tangible.

This is how to create a more merciful and benevolent society. In turn, society must always seek to overcome the temptation to take advantage of religions and religious factors. Religions should never be instrumentalized, nor should they support or approve conflicts and disagreements. “A true peace, founded on mutual respect, on encounter and sharing, on the desire to go beyond the prejudices and errors of the past, on the rejection of double standards and selfish interests; a lasting peace, animated by the courage to overcome barriers, eradicate poverty and injustice, denounce and put an end to the proliferation of weapons and immoral exploitation at the expense of others.” (Ibid) .

In his latest Encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis writes that “a journey of peace is possible between religions. Your starting point should be the way God sees things.” (Pope Francis, Fratelli tutti, 281.) . This is another reason why the faithful must find occasions to talk to each other, look each other in the eye and work together for the common good and the promotion of peace. The journey begins at the grassroots level and at the level of friendship and fraternity within our societies, which does not mean diluting or hiding the deepest convictions. As people of faith, we are challenged to return to our sources, and to focus on what is essential: worship of God and love of neighbor. The truth is that violence is not based on our fundamental religious convictions, but only on their distortion.

The sincere and humble worship of God “bears fruit not in discrimination, hatred and violence, but in respect for the sacredness of life, in respect for the dignity and freedom of others and in a loving commitment to the well-being of all” (Pope Francis, Homily, Holy Mass and Canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz, Colombo, Sri Lanka, January 14, 2015.) . Therefore, “terrorism is reprehensible and threatens people’s security […]. It is due, rather, to an accumulation of incorrect interpretations of religious texts and policies linked to hunger, poverty, injustice, oppression and pride” (Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Coexistence, Abu Dhabi, February 4, 2019.) .

Religious convictions about the sacred meaning of human life allow us to “recognize the fundamental values of our common Humanity, values in the name of which we can and must cooperate, build and dialogue, forgive and grow; this will allow different voices to unite in creation of a melody of sublime nobility and beauty, instead of fanatical cries of hatred” (Pope Francis, Address to Civil Authorities, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, June 6, 2015.).

Unfortunately, on some occasions, some groups engage in fundamentalist violence, regardless of the specific religion, encouraged by the recklessness of their leaders. However, as Pope Francis writes, “the commandment of peace is inscribed in the depths of religious traditions, [… and] religious leaders, [… are called to be true ‘people of dialogue,’ to cooperate in building peace not as intermediaries, but as authentic mediators. Intermediaries seek to give everyone a discount, ultimately to obtain something for themselves. The mediator, on the other hand, is one who withholds nothing for himself, but who it is spent generously until it is consumed, knowing that the only gain is peace. Each of us is called to be an artisan of peace, to unite and not divide, to erase hatred and not cling to it, to open paths of dialogue and not building new walls” (Pope Francis, Speech at the International Meeting for Peace organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio, September 30, 2013).

Therefore, one of the first and most fundamental steps that religions must take to cooperate in promoting peace is “never to incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor should they incite violence or bloodshed. These tragic realities are consequences of a deviation from religious teachings. They result from the political manipulation of religions and the interpretations made by religious groups who, throughout history, have taken advantage of the power of religious feeling in the hearts of men and women” ( Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Common Living, Abu Dhabi, 4 February 2019.) .

That said, I believe that the real question of our time is not how to advance our own causes, but what kind of life proposals we are offering to future generations. How can we make sure we leave them with a better world than the one we received? God and History itself will ask us if we spend our lives in search of peace. It is the younger generations, who dream (Cf. Pope Francis, Speech at the Interreligious Meeting with the Sheikh and Representatives of the Different Religious Communities of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev Mosque – Baku, Azerbaijan, October 2, 2016) .