Religious and humanist commitment to peace

By Simon Barrow
December 2, 2011

A recent press comment from Mennonite World Conference acts as a helpful reminder of an important declaration inviting belief communities - faith-based and otherwise - to commit to peace in the midst of a world still riven with conflict and religiously- or ideologically-sanctioned violence.

The 2011 Assisi gathering of religious and secular leaders and thinkers, brought together by Pope Benedict, included a reading of the 2002 declaration by representatives of the Lutheran, Sikh, Orthodox, Baptist, Muslim, Taoist, Shinto, Jewish and Reformed Christian communities.

The 2011 version, with a wider circle of endorsement, included an additional closing paragraph for “humanists in dialogue with believers,” read by a Mexican philosopher.

The statement as a whole reads:

1. We commit ourselves to proclaiming our firm conviction that violence and terrorism are incompatible with the authentic Spirit of religion, and, as we condemn every recourse to violence and war in the name of God or religion, we commit ourselves to doing everything possible to eliminate the root causes of terrorism.

2. We commit ourselves to educating people to mutual respect and esteem, in order to help bring about a peaceful and fraternal coexistence between people of different ethnic groups, cultures, and religions.

3. We commit ourselves to fostering the culture of dialogue, so that there will be an increase of understanding and mutual trust between individuals and among peoples, for these are the premises of authentic peace.

4. We commit ourselves to defending the right of everyone to live a decent life in accordance with their own cultural identity, and to form freely a family of their own.

5. We commit ourselves to frank and patient dialogue, refusing to consider our differences as an insurmountable barrier, but recognising instead that to encounter the diversity of others can become an opportunity for greater reciprocal understanding.

6. We commit ourselves to forgiving one another for past and present errors and prejudices, and to supporting one another in a common effort both to overcome selfishness and arrogance, hatred and violence, and to learn from the past that peace without justice is no true peace.

7. We commit ourselves to taking the side of the poor and the helpless, to speaking out for those who have no voice and to working effectively to change these situations, out of the conviction that no one can be happy alone.

8. We commit ourselves to taking up the cry of those who refuse to be resigned to violence and evil, and we desire to make every effort possible to offer the men and women of our time real hope for justice and peace.

9. We commit ourselves to encouraging all efforts to promote friendship between peoples, for we are convinced that, in the absence of solidarity and understanding between peoples, technological progress exposes the word to a growing risk of destruction and death.

10. We commit ourselves to urging the leaders of nations to make every effort to create and consolidate, on the national and international levels, a world of solidarity and peace based on justice.

We, as persons of different religious traditions, will tirelessly proclaim that peace and justice are inseparable, and that peace in justice is the only path which humanity can take towards a future of hope. In a world with ever more open borders, shrinking distances, and better relations, as a result of a broad network of communications, we are convinced that security, freedom, and peace will never be guaranteed by force but by mutual trust.

May God bless these our resolutions and grant justice and peace to the world.

(Added in 2011) We, humanists in dialogue with believers, commit ourselves together with all men and women of goodwill to building a new world in which respect for the dignity of each and every person, their interior aspirations and the freedom to act on the basis of their own beliefs, is the foundation for life in society. We will make every effort to ensure that believers and non-believers in reciprocal trust can live out the shared quest for truth and peace.

Violence never again!

War never again!

Terrorism never again!

In the name of God,

may every religion bring upon the earth justice and peace,

forgiveness and life, love!

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