President of the Republic, Italy
Dear Mr. President,
I wish to address my heartfelt greeting and most wholehearted encouragement to the organizers and all the participants of the International Meeting in Tirana, the most recent stop of the fruitful work the Community of Sant’Egidio has carried on for almost 30 years at an international level.
The themes selected and the authoritativeness of the speakers, who come from all over the world, confirm your intent to give life and energy to the “spirit of Assisi”, summoning institutions, as well as peoples and communities, to become true protagonists in the construction of peace.
Winds of war are stirring in many parts of the world, generating violence, death and fear. In the era of globalization no one can opt out and feel secure. The flames of war are licking our borders, generating misery, devastation and waves of refugees who knock on the doors of Western countries hoping to find salvation, hope and rights.
Democratic nations cannot respond by closing up and entrenching themselves. Walls and barbed wires will not stop the fire from bursting into flames. The solution is to steer global processes, and in order to do so a clever, far-sighted, and brave political action is needed, that may bring together dialogue, development, integration and security for the citizens.
As you know well – and have put in practice for decades – religions can offer a very important contribution to help people lift up their eyes, to mobilize hearts and souls, to overcome indifference. Pope Francis has recently reaffirmed that “it is a sacrilege to kill in the name of God”. The great world religions have a special responsibility in promoting dialogue and understanding. Authentically religious men and women embody the ideals of peace, respect, collaboration, rejection of violence, charity and love. Religious freedom – threatened in many parts of the world – is one of the fundamental rights of human beings and democracies.
Dialogue is a complex and patient effort. But mutual knowledge mitigates distrust, and friendship and respect uproot intolerance.
We need to fight against and isolate those who preach hatred, people who exploit religious faith, whether their own or someone else’s, to spread violence and terror. Through tangible and effective action,we need to oppose whoever fuels the idea that the clash of civilizations is unavoidable. The only civilization we accept,which we persistently endeavour for, is the civilization of peace, of encounter, of collaboration, of fundamental human rights, of the reduction of inequality. It is not an easy path, but it is the only one that is granted in order to attain authentic peace without losing – or worse, betraying – our values. When selfishness and demagogy prevail, Europe and the entire West are weaker, and their voice becomes less effective in the world.
I am certain that the seeds you will sow in these days in Tirana will bear good fruits. I therefore renew my best wishes to you, for thefull success of your important initiative.
Rome, 6th September 2015