Vatican City, September 2015 (VIS) – “Peace is always possible – religions and cultures in dialogue” is the title of the 28th International Meeting for Peace, organised by the Sant'Egidio Community. Twenty years after the end of the war in the Balkans, it is being held this year in Tirana, Albania from 6 to 8 September. The Meetings follow the trail of St. John Paul II who attended the first in 1986 in Assisi, Italy.
Below are extensive extracts of the Holy Father's message to participants, dated 29 August 2015, memory of the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist.
“As historical contexts change and peoples are called upon to face profound and at times dramatic transformations, we are increasingly aware of the need for the followers of different religions to meet, to engage in dialogue, to journey together and to collaborate for peace, in that 'spirit of Assisi' that refers to the luminous witness of St. Francis”.
“This year you have chosen to visit Tirana, the capital of a country that has become a symbol of the peaceful cohabitation of different religions, after a long history of suffering. … I wished to choose Albania as the first European country to visit, precisely to encourage the path of peaceful coexistence after the tragic persecutions suffered by Albanian believers during the last century. The long list of martyrs still speaks to us today of that dark period, but also of the strength of faith that does not bend to the arrogance of evil. In no other country in the world has the decision to exclude God from the life of the people been so strong; even just a religious sign was enough to warrant punishment with prison, if not death. This deeply affected the Albanian people, up to the moment at which they regained their freedom, when the members of the various religious communities, sorely tested by the suffering they had experienced, were once more able to live together in peace”.
“It is precisely because it has its foundations in God that 'peace is always possible', as the title of your Meeting this year affirms. It is necessary to confirm this truth, especially today, when in some parts of the world it would seem that violence, persecution and abuse prevail over religious freedom, along with resignation to protracted conflicts. We must never become resigned to war! And we must not remain indifferent to those who suffer as a result of war and violence. For this reason I have chosen as the theme of the next World Day of Peace: 'Overcome indifference and win peace'. But it is also a form of violence to raise walls and barriers to obstruct those who seek a place of peace. It is violence to reject those who flee from inhuman conditions in the hope of a better future. It is violence to discard children and the elderly from society and from life itself. It is violence to widen the gap between those who waste the superfluous and those who lack essentials”.
“In this world, faith in God leads us to believe and leads us to cry aloud that peace is possible. It is faith that drives us to trust in God and not to resign ourselves to the work of evil. As believers we are called upon to rediscover that universal vocation to peace that lies at the heart of our different religious traditions, and to courageously offer it again to the men and women of our time. I reiterate what I said in this respect when speaking to religious leaders in Tirana: 'Authentic religion is a source of peace and not of violence! No one must use the name of God to commit violence! To kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. To discriminate in the name of God is inhuman'”.