A few weeks ago in Naples, Italy Pope Benedict XVI gathered with representatives from the world’s major religions (Christian and non-Christian) in order to dialogue and prayer for peace in our world. At the end of the gathering the religions gathered signed a joint “Peace Appeal”. Below is a copy of the Appeal. It is worth reading and reflection. This annual gathering is coordinated by the Community of Sant’Egidio. If you want to add your own name to the Appeal – which I have – you can go to http://www.santegidio.org/ and click on the “Peace Appeal”. “Never can evil and violence be justified by invoking the name of God.” (Pope Benedict XVI). Pray for peace!

Men and women of different religions, from many parts of the world, we have gathered here in Naples to forge bonds of brotherhood, and call to God for the great gift of peace. The name of God is peace.

In the heart of the Mediterranean Sea and in this extraordinary city, which is well acquainted with poverty and greatness of heart, we stooped down upon the wounds of the world. There is an illness that pollutes every thing and its name is violence. Violence is the grim daily companion of too many men and women on our planet. Violence becomes war, terrorism, poverty and despair, exploitation of our planet. It is fuelled by contempt, it stuns people with hatred, it kills hope and sows fear, it strikes down the innocent, and debases humanity. Violence seduces the hearts of human beings and tells them, “nothing can change”. This pessimism makes people believe that living together is impossible.

From Naples we can say, stronger than before, that anyone who uses the name of God to hate the other, to practice violence, or to wage war, is cursing the name of God.

As Benedict XVI told us, “Never can evil and violence be justified by invoking the name of God”.
We focused on our diverse religious traditions, we heard the sorrow of the South of the World, and we felt the burden of pessimism rising from the 20th century with its weight of war and shattered illusions. We need the strength that comes from the spirit of love, which helps rebuild and mend the unity of humankind. The power of the spirit changes the hearts of men and women and transforms history.

In the depths of our religious traditions we have discovered that a world without dialogue is a world without hope, where people are fated to fear each other. Dialogue does not cancel differences. Dialogue enriches life and dispels pessimism that makes one see the other as a threat. Dialogue is not the illusion of the weak, it is the wisdom of the strong, who rely on the weak power of prayer. And prayer changes the world and the destiny of humankind. Dialogue weakens no-one’s identity, and it encourages everyone to see the best in the other. Nothing is lost with dialogue, everything is possible through dialogue.

To those who still kill, to those who still sow terrorism and wage war in the name of God, we say: “Stop! Do not kill! Violence is always a defeat”.

We commit ourselves to learn the art of living together and to offer it to our fellow believers. There is no alternative to the unity of the human family. We need brave builders, in all cultures, and in all religious traditions. We need the globalization of the spirit, which reveals to us what we no longer see: the beauty of life and of the other, in all circumstances, even the hardest.Our religious traditions teach us that prayer is an active power in history, and it moves peoples and nations. Humbly, we offer this ancient wisdom to the service of all peoples, of every man and every woman, to open a new era of freedom from fear and contempt for the other. It is the spirit of Assisi, and here, from Naples, full of courage and strength, it challenges violence and any abuse of religion as a pretext for violence.

Following in this path, confident that peace can be a gift to the whole world, we commit ourselves to the Most High.

Naples, 23 October 2007