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World Religions in Assisi with Pope Francis


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September 9 2014 09:30 | Auditorium Elzenveld


Sjirk Van Der Zee

Protestant Pastor, Netherlands
He that oppresses the poor blasphemes his Maker;
but he that honours Him is gracious to the poor.
Proverbs 14: 31.
At the first interreligious conference in history there were only two participants: Moses and Pharaoh. Now there are more than 300 ….. And I hope that this conference will open up more perspectives and will end with more hope than the first interreligious conference.
For Pharaoh answers to Moses’ question, which he posed on the authority of the LORD, the God of Israel, who commands: “let my people go”: who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I care nothing for the LORD. Moses and Aaron replied: The God of the Hebrews has met with us. So, Pharaoh: now you know who the LORD is. Exodus 5: 2 and 3. 
The God of the Hebrews  is the God of freedom, justice and peace.
Therefore we will first listen to the voice of His prophets. The prophets of ancient Israel were the first to think worldwide, to know a God who transcended people’s own place and the national frontiers. They saw mankind as one moral community, held together by a covenant of mutual responsibility (the covenant with Noah after the flood). Also they were the first to conceive society as a place where “justice wells up as waters and righteousness as a mighty stream,”(Amos 5: 24) and who foresaw a future in which war would be abolished  and the peoples would live together in peace.
The things that horrified the prophets are now even daily occurrences all over the world. There is no society to which Amos’ words would not apply:
Hear this, you, who trample upon the needy,
And bring the poor of the land to an end,
Saying: When will the new moon be over
That we may sell grain?
And the Sabbath,
That we may offer wheat for sale,     
That we may make the ephah small and the shekel great,
And deal deceitfully with false balances,
That we may buy the poor for silver,
And the needy for a pair of sandals,
And sell the refuse of the wheat?         
The prophet is a man who feels fiercely. God has thrust a burden upon his soul (Amos 8: 4-6)                                                                                                                                          and we have -to begin with- to feel this burden during this Conference, and he is bowed and stunned at man’s fierce greed. Frightful is the agony of man; no human voice can convey its full terror. Prophecy is the voice that God has lent to the silent agony, a voice to the plundered poor, to the profaned riches of the world. It is a form of living, a crossing point of God and man. God is raging in the prophet‘s words.
The prophets had no theory or “idea” of God. What they had was an UNDERSTANDING. To the prophets God was overwhelmingly real and shatteringly present. They did not offer an exposition of the nature of God, but rather an exposition of God‘s insight into man and His concern for man.
God can be intimately affected. He possesses not merely intelligence and will but also pathos.
Pathos as a living care and an outgoing challenge. Pathos is a reaction to human history, an attitude called forth by human conduct.
Never in history has man been taken as seriously as in prophetic thinking. Man is not only an image of God;
He is a perpetual concern of God. The idea of pathos adds a new dimension to human existence. Whatever man does affects not only his own life, but also the life of God insofar as it is directed to man.
The import of man raises him beyond the level of mere creature. He is a consort, a partner, a factor in the life of God.
Justice is a mode of action, righteousness a quality of the person. Righteousness goes beyond justice. Justice is strict and exact, giving each person his due. Righteousness implies benevolence, kindness, generosity.
It would be wrong to assume that there was a dichotomy of mishpat and kindness; “Justice was not equal justice but a bias in favor of the poor. Justice always leaned toward mercy for the widows and the orphans”
Divine justice involves His being merciful, compassionate.
Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you, 
and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy  upon you:
for the Lord is a God of justice : 
happy are all they that wait for Him. 
Isaiah 30:18.
Justice dies when dehumanized, no matter how exactly it may be exercised. Justice dies when deified, for beyond all justice is God‘s compassion. The logic of justice may seem impersonal, yet the concern for justice is an act of love.
The religions of the world are no more self-sufficient, no more independent, no more isolated than individuals or nations. Energies, experiences, and ideas that come to life outside the boundaries of a particular religion or all religions continue to challenge and to affect every religion.
There is a ecumenical movement, worldwide and in extent and influence: nihilism.
We must choose between interfaith and internihilism.
Should religions insist upon the illusion of complete isolation?
Should we refuse to be on speaking terms with one another and hope for each other‘s failure? Or should we pray for each other’s health and help one another in preserving our respective legacies, in preserving a common legacy?
The purpose of interreligious cooperation:
It is neither to flatter nor to refute one another, but to HELP one another;
to share insight and learning , to cooperate in academic ventures on the highest scholarly level and, what is more important, to search in the wilderness for well-springs of devotion, for treasures of stillness, for the power of love and care for man. What is urgently  needed are ways of helping one another in the terrible predicament of here and now by the courage to believe that the word of the Lord  endures  forever as well as here and now; to cooperate in trying to bring about a resurrection of sensitivity, a revival of conscience; to keep alive the divine sparks in our souls; to nurture openness to the different traditions and to the spirit of the Psalms, reverence for the words  of the prophets, and faithfulness to Jesus Christ our Lord and the
LIVING GOD.           
PRAYER  Saves the World ( ????? ).
Prayer is our greatest privilege. To pray is to stake our very existence, our right to live, on the truth and on the supreme importance of what we pray for. Prayer, then, is a radical commitment, a dangerous involvement in the life of God. Prayer is subversive and revolutionary. In such awareness we pray……
Because we know: The self is not the hub, but the spoke of the revolving wheel of history.
God is the hub and my self-awareness is a mere spoke, a subtle awareness of living as objects of Gods concern.
The chief characteristic of prophetic thought is the primacy of God ‘s involvement in history.
And we know: There is an everlasting theme of mankind‘s unfinished symphony, a venture in which adequacy is never achieved.
God is present wherever men are inflicted. Where is God present now?
We do not know how to cry, we do not know how to pray! Our conscience is so timid, our words so faint, our mercy so feeble. O FATHER, have mercy upon us. Help us to overcome the arrogance of power.
To pray, then, means to bring God back into the world, to establish His kingship, to let His glory prevail. Great is the power of prayer. For to worship is to expand the presence of God in the world. The way to prayer leads through the acts of wonder and amazement.
Prayer is an invitation to God to intervene in our lives , to let His will prevail in our affairs.
To pray  means to partake in God ‘s dream of a world redeemed,  of reconciliation of heaven and earth, of a mankind which is truly His image, reflecting His wisdom, justice and compassion. God ‘s dream is not to be alone , to have mankind as a partner in the drama
of continuous creation. By whatever we do , by every act we carry out, we either advance or obstruct the drama of redemption;we either reduce or enhance the power of evil.
We call (during this Conference) for a covenant of peace, for reconciliation.
And peace for all men is a burning torch.                             Isaiah 62:1.




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