At a conference with the theme “Promoting Peace Together” held in Geneva on 21 May, religious leaders focused on two historic documents related to peace-making. The first, “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” was jointly signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Abu Dhabi in February. The second, “Education for Peace in a Multi-Religious World: A Christian Perspective,” jointly prepared by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the World Council of Churches (WCC), was officially launched at the conference.
Anne Glynn-Mackoul, moderator of the opening session and a WCC Executive Committee member who represents the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (USA), expressed her appreciation for those gathered who are inspired by a common vision to promote peace together. “Today we will explore together two documents which affirm, each with compelling fervor, the possibility of peace,” she said.
The two documents, Glynn-Mackoul added, “help us, each in its own way, to think of religions not as fortresses to be defended but as wellsprings for the flourishing of all life.”
In opening remarks, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit addressed the group with joy as brothers and sisters. "It is a simple greeting but in this greeting there is a beautiful and radical truth: a truth that is both liberating and very demanding,” he said. "As we celebrate in this ecumenical centre, we do this as members of the one human family. As human beings, we are related and God calls us to live together as a family, which means we also have to live together properly in justice and in peace.
“We have to be active participants in bringing peace to everybody. To celebrate human fraternity is a gift, a task, a divine calling,” Tveit added.
Bishop Miguel Ayuso Guixot, titular bishop of Luperciana and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said that Pope Francis has always invited people to promote a culture of dialogue through mutual respect and friendship. “It marks how far we have come together but it is also a point of departure,” he said. “It is a new dynamic which takes us from being only face-to-face to our standing shoulder-to-shoulder, looking ahead in order to promote peace and coexistence by looking at the future together.”
By fraternity, Guixot added, “it is intended that human relationships grow from the depths of the meaning of family, sister, brother, not only fellowship or friendship.”
Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, reflected on the importance of promoting dialogue in a global community. “The interconnectedness of today’s global world become more and more apparent every day,” he said.
Aalya Al Shehhi, deputy permanent representative of the Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations in Geneva, said the conference was both important and timely. “The two documents will positively guide our deliberation,” she said, “and help us call upon the international community to rediscover the values of co-existence. I’m very confident that this conference will be a genuine step.”
The collaboration between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the WCC Office for Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation began in 1977. In their collaborative engagement, both offices have so far worked on several common interreligious projects, namely, Interreligious Prayer (1994); Reflection on Interreligious Marriage (1997) and Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct (2011).
The 21 May event marked a milestone in the continuing joint efforts of the WCC and the pontifical council aimed at strengthening ecumenical relationships through the fostering of interreligious dialogue.