The title and theme of the recent European Assembly for Religions and Peace couldn't have been more in harmony with the events Europe is facing today.
At a distance of eight years since the last European Assembly, held in Italy on that occasion as well, representatives from different faiths and religious traditions present in Europe met for several days (Castel Gandolfo, 28-31 October) to discuss about fear: fear of differences, fear of the other, and fear of foreigners, which are current sentiments today especially after the recent tragic events in Paris and that lead to Islam-phobia and Christian-phobia. In the face of such events we have to take the great opportunities that open out at continental level, especially for the young generations.
Immediately after 13 November attacks, Religions for Peace declared: “We have to admit that the horrible terrorist massacre hit us all hard, and perhaps, even more for those who are committed to spreading the spirit of peaceful coexistence founded on the value of human dignity and positive respect of differences. Every person of good will can give his/her contribution so as not to allow Fear to settle in our hearts and in our minds, with its inevitable load of violence and destruction.”
The moments for sharing the so-called good practices by protagonists from different European countries were particularly effective. The work done in plenary sessions and workshops sought to respond to the challenges that the European continent faces today, both in view of the throngs of migrants, and the growth of personal and group sentiments of racist nature. Particular attention was given to the role of the media and to its negative manipulation of public opinion, increasing fears, to the detriment of the positive elements which already exist and which do not make the news.
From the presentation of the young people, a multiethnic, multicultural and multi-religious cross-section of Europe emerged which is not just a futuristic projection but already a reality. The youths also expressed their commitment to work towards building constructive relationships between people of different traditions.
From these four days of work, an updated role has emerged for Religions for Peace in Europe, in which the organization, now active for several decades, is called to coordinate and to work in collaboration and by networking with other agencies actively involved in the fields of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, and in the fields of welcoming and integration.
A commitment which not only conveys “our fraternal support to the families and friends of the innocent victims and the entire French people, through affectionate remembrance and prayer” which is renewed in the desire to “proceed with our joint actions for justice and peace.”