Tens of thousands of Muslims have been killing each other in God’s name for 1,500 years. Protestants and Catholics spent a lot of time killing each other during the 16th and 17th centuries and, of course, Jews have been on the receiving end of persecution for the best part of 2,000 years. Why did representatives from all of them gather at Assisi in early November?
John Paul II called Christians and members of other religious faiths to come to Assisi and work through a process of reflection and prayer in hopes of leading the world towards peace. They gathered again in the same location a few weeks ago at the invitation of
Benedict XVI. Their goal is noble but the task is not easy. Religious conflicts overlap continually with political, economic and historical factors so a few days of common prayer are not likely to produce fundamental change. However, it is a wonderful step in the right direction.
Assisi has been chosen for this meeting because St. Francis has become a wonderful symbol of a man of peace and all major religions honor his memory.
The underlying cause of these endless conflicts is not really one or another form of faith but rather it is hatred, the terrible destructive vice of hatred! Religious people need to get beyond their dogmatic differences and see that each of these traditions calls for love and acceptance. We go wrong when we are afraid of the differences present in the lives of others. We must accept each other and continue to struggle for greater understanding and ultimate peace. Religion should be a major cause of that peace, not a cause of conflict.