Remarks by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza,
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See
High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace
Roundtable Discussion: Mobilizing the capacity of faith actors for building just, peaceful and inclusive societies through strengthening intercultural and interfaith dialogue
New York, 13 September 2019
Madam President, Distinguished fellow-panelists, dear friends,
It gives me great pleasure to share some thoughts with you as we continue to reflect on the Culture of Peace, empowering and transforming humanity.
The specific theme of our roundtable discussion recognizes, in a very positive way, the importance of faith actors; of those men and women, from all backgrounds and walks of life, whose faith or religious conviction inspires and enables them to make a difference in the world around them, strengthening a culture of peace through word and example.
Genuine faith actors are men and women of peace. They are committed to making the gift of peace bear fruit. Peace permeates the teachings of sacred texts and traditions and meets the deepest aspirations of the human heart. The familiar Hebrew word for peace, “Shalom”, similar to its equivalent in other Semitic languages, such as the Arabic “Salaam”, also implies notions of harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity and welfare. It is hardly surprising that this word has come to be used as a simple, every day greeting: what better wish would people of goodwill desire for those whom they encounter? Faith actors are those who speak words of peace; they announce a message of peace.
Commitment to peace must be translated into action; thus, faith actors must necessarily be builders of peace, not only in the confines of their places of worship but also in the world at large. Actions speak louder than words and are a powerful testimony to our deepest convictions. Sometimes the work of builders of peace involves paying careful attention so that a fragile peace is not stamped out, crushed by those who resort to violent means or snuffed out by contrary winds of negativity. At times, it means the patient, hard work of cultivating dialogue and amicable relationships between individuals and societies. At other times it requires a more determined and vigorous cutting away of all that impedes peace, such as injustices and all forms of unjust discrimination and exclusion.
As builders of peace, faith actors foster communities of peace. They, aware of the irrepressible longing for fraternity in the hearts of all, foster fellowship within communities, enabling the members to see one another not as enemies or rivals, but as brothers and sister. Builders of peace labor so that their communities do not remain turned in on themselves; instead, they reach out to embrace other communities as deserving of their full respect and friendship. Fraternity is the glue that binds us together; without it, world peace and harmonious coexistence would be impossible. Faith actors, conscious of their responsibilities, are called to lead others to discover, love, experience, share and enjoy communities living in fraternity.
Faith actors, in their roles as people of peace, peace builders and promoters of communities of peace, cannot but promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue. For too many today, living in the midst of senseless conflicts, terrorism and persecutions, peace remains a distant dream. In response to their desperation, our words of hope for an end to their sufferings must be accompanied by concrete paths toward the fulfillment of that hope. Occasionally when religious leaders speak out about concrete injustices or sufferings their people are enduring, some political leaders and other public commentators can treat it as unwelcome meddling in political affairs. Such commentary, however, can be an important service toward the common good and as such should be welcomed.
One specific application of this type of contribution is the joint witness of religious leaders and their communities, coming together to condemn all forms of violence and persecution. Interreligious dialogue and intercultural dialogue in which religious leaders play a major role provides a context in which to discuss differences, grow in mutual appreciation of the others’ perspective, heal past wounds, and journey together toward peace and other common goals. Religiously motivated men and women, moved as they are by the call to reverence the other’s God-given dignity, have a special responsibility to show everyone how to converse about the most important and deepest matters of human existence and to work respectfully through what may divide. We candidly acknowledge that religious leaders and believers have not always lived up to their role as peacemakers. We also need to be continually reminded of this grave responsibility!
Madam President, distinguished fellow-panelists, dear friends,
It is in this sense that just, peaceful and inclusive societies and intercultural and interfaith dialogue are profoundly interrelated. They grow together: the more just, peaceful and inclusive our societies are, the more space there is for cultural exchange and the more religious faith is respected and given its rightful place. As Pope Francis and the Grand Imam Al-Tayyeb jointly declared last February in the document Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, “understanding and the widespread promotion of a culture of tolerance, acceptance of others and of living together peacefully would contribute significantly to reducing many economic, social, political and environmental problems that weigh so heavily on a large part of humanity”.
Let us hope that our reflections during these events surrounding the High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace can indeed move us to concrete action for the building of more just and peaceful societies.
Thank you for your kind attention