“The strength of the spirit of Assisi lies in confirming that there is no such thing as war or violence in the name of God”. This is all the more true in the face of “the most inhuman wars” and of “violations of the very rules of war established by the Geneva conventions on the treatment of prisoners and injured war casualties as well as human rights”, according to Prof. Andrea Riccardi.
Riccardi was addressing the inaugural session of the Interfaith and International Peace Conference organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio on the theme Peace is the Future; Religions and Cultures in Dialogue 100 years after World War I taking place until September 9 in Antwerp, Belgium
The founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio admitted that talking about peace today may appear to be wishful thinking: “War has returned to Europe between Russia and Ukraine – he said – the map of the Middle East has fallen apart in two years, while persecuted refugees are fleeing from North Iraq. Syria is in the throes of an atrocious and inhumane war. Painful stories stem from the rehabilitation of the instrument of war as well as the mixture of war and violence” .
The barbarity of the current wars – Riccardi continued – is demonstrated “by the exhibition of cruelty, up to now generally hidden by the perpetrators, used as an arm in a global world: slaughtering and showing off the horror (men and women humiliated, dragged out of their homes, undressed, shot or worse) is true terrorism”.
In the face of this reality Riccardi recalled that during his trip home from Korea, Pope Francis referred to today’s conflicts almost as if he were speaking of a fragmentary third World War. “Against this background we ask ourselves – Riccardi commented - does peace really represent our future?”
“Along the path that stretches from Assisi 1986 – he continued – we have understood from year to year that peace is a matter too serious to be left to just a few”. John Paul II said at the time: “Peace is a construction yard open to everyone, not just to specialists, experts and strategists”. Thus springs this movement of peace and dialogue, which has witnessed many tough scenarios.
Riccardi concluded his remarks by saying “Still more than yesterday, we are convinced that peace is a great ideal that can inspire politics and personal lives. Peace is an ideal that has been trampled upon in too many regions of the world: it must rise again!