ROME – More than three hundred leaders of the world’s great religions will get together in Antwerpen (Belgium) from Sunday, September 7, to Tuesday, September 9, to take part in the XXVIII edition of the International Meeting ‘People and Religions’ sponsored by the Community of Sant’Egidio, under the theme “Peace is the future: religions and cultures in dialogue one hundred years after the first World War”.
The choice of venue on the tragic anniversary of a conflict that caused bloodshed all over Europe responds to the need to bring the “spirit of Assisi” into today’s world, without forgetting the lessons of history but at the same time without relinquishing our commitment to the present, which requires us to “keep the light of hope lit, praying and working for peace”, as Pope Francis said last September 30 while receiving the participants of last year’s conference in Rome.
This year’s conference takes place while armed conflicts are causing bloodshed in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Northern Afrlica, creating a tremendous humanitarian tragedy, which in turn triggers an incessant flow of refugees and threatens the security the Europe and the entire Western world. The anniversary of the first World War should induce everyone to reflect on the uselessness of war and dedicate themselves to the construction of a stable and lasting peace.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony in Antwerpen’s Stadsschouwburg on Sunday afternoon (September 7) will be, among others, the Bishop of Antwerpen, Msgr. Johan Bonny, the founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio, prof. Andrea Riccardi, the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, Polish author Zygmunt Bauman, the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Aphrem II, and the Grand Mufti of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam. There will also be testimony from Iraqi parliamentarian Vian Kakheel, representative of the Yazidi community persecuted by the caliphate.
The program includes 25 round table discussions in which religious leaders and political, cultural and socio-economic representatives of countries like Iraq, Syria, Kurdistan, Nigeria, Ukraine and the Philippines will take part: notably the Patriarch of Babylonian Chaldians, Louis Raphaël I Sako, Anwar Hadaya of the provincial council of Niniveh, Kamal Muslim, religious affairs minister of Kurdistan; from Syria Archbishop Dionysius Jean Kawak; from Pakistan the president of the alliance of the country’s minorities, Paul Bhatti, and Supreme Court member Mohammad Khalid Masud; from Iran, the president of the Institute for Inter-religious Dialogue, Sayyed Mohammad Ali Abtani; from Nigeria, Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, the archbishop of Abuja, Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, emir Mohamed Sambo Haruna, and pastor James Wuye; from Ukraine, bishop Nikolaj, from Russia, metropolitan Pavel of the Moscow Patriarchate.
The International Conference will come to a close on Tuesday, September 9, with each religion holding prayer sessions in separate locations, an inter-religious procession and the proclamation of the 2014 Appeal for Peace. The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, will also participate.
The Bishop of Antwerpen, Msgr. Johan Bonny, and the President of the Community of Sant’Egidio, Prof. Marco Impagliazzo, will hold an introductory news conference on the International Conference “Peace is the Future” on Friday, September 5, at 11:00 AM at the Antwerpen Episcopate, on Schoenmarkt 2.