Historian, Founder of the Community of Sant'Egidio
These days in Sarajevo have been very precious. In several ways it has been a unique event. I thank the people of this city, its authorities, and particularly the Muslim Community, the Orthodox Community, the Jewish Community, and the Catholic Church.
After our fruitful dialogue on crucial issues, after our different prayers one beside the other, we are about to make an appeal. We speak with one voice, in spite of the different religions and stories we come from. It is a voice that rises from the depth of the religious traditions: it has different sources, different alphabets, but it merges into a cry for peace. A cry rises from Sarajevo, an invocation to God, and a warning: never again hatred and fratricidal wars! Living together is the future!
Who will take this message upon himself? Whoever believes and knows that peace is one of God’s beautiful names and it is life for every people. Religions can help to live together, to understand that this condition is not a curse, it is a blessing.
In leaving this city, we do not go away from Sarajevo completely. Something remains here: a vision of hope and friendliness for this land. And something from Sarajevo remains with us: its sorrows and its questions. Whoever lives the spirit of Assisi, which is dialogue in an atmosphere of prayer, has experienced a profound affinity with this multi-faceted city, wounded, rebuilt, full of life and yearning for the future. May Sarajevo remain one and manifold! The history of Sarajevo is a warning.
A feeling of profound empathy has grown between Sarajevo and those who live the spirit of Assisi. Through its highest representatives and the attention of the media, Europe has shown interest in Bosnia Herzegovina. We have not forgotten Sarajevo: the future of this region affects all Europeans. Besides, also the European Union, in the richness of its diversity, is a land of living together.
In order to live together we need to be spiritually close to each other. We need deeper connections. Peoples cannot grow closer to each other physically and geographically unless they understand each other spiritually, and value each other. Without the spirit, without harmony between religions and cultures, without dialogue, without human empathy, it is impossible to live, indeed even to survive: not only in Sarajevo, but all over the world. Religions help men and women to live in peace. Dialogue between religions is an effective indication for cultures, for politics, for the relations among people.
Let us look at the future without fear! Let us prepare the future in friendliness among peoples. Let us look at the future without being paralyzed by past fears! We need courage and hope to prepare a future of life together in peace. Let us forfeit all prejudices, the preaching of hatred. We can build the future, educating women, men, the youth to peace: for only peace is holy, and living together reveals the will of God and the equality of all men. Equality that is rooted in God himself. For whoever kills a man, whoever hates a man or despises him, strikes God himself!
Religions can be foreseeing. We can convey a new conviction to everyone, a conviction developed in contact with the sorrows of many and the experience of peoples: war is evil, violence can never be justified in God’s name. Dialogue can help resolve insurmountable problems. Why, facing situations of crisis, are the tools of dialogue too often cast aside, and only the path of weapons is left?
We have a serene and sure vision: it is a vision ancient and new. We are a reference point – the spirit of Assisi is – in the plurality of our religions: a reference point of peace. Since 1986 we have walked in the spirit of Assisi. Great believers have taken part in this path and offered their contribution. Among them, I remember Cardinal Carlo Maria Martina, Abuna Paulos, the Patriarch of Ethiopia, Ghassan Tueni, journalist Giancarlo Zizola and many others. The legacy of Assisi is hope and prophecy for the future. It is a great achievement in a world in danger of a clash of religions and civilizations.
More than ten years have passed since that terrible 11th September 2001, when it seemed that a conflict of religion was drawing close. We have always asserted that there is no war of religion, only the exploitation of religions. We have done so in difficult times and in better days. This is the gift of a vision of peace that John Paul II prophetically opened in Assisi. This gift we continue to cultivate year after year, like a growing legacy.
We now have a steadfast and clear conviction, which develops into a strength we can face the future with. We are therefore not afraid of saying: the future is living together.
Thank you for your presence!