“Pseudo-religious terrorism, extremism, radicalism and nationalism cloaked in the veil of the sacred continue to cause concern and fear of religion… Stand up for peace, not arms!… Women must be given a greater role and responsibility… Rigid and suffocating religiosity does not belong to the future, but to the past… ” We bring you the full text of the Pope’s contribution at the end of VI. Congress of leaders of world and traditional religions.
Dear brothers and sisters!
We walked together. Thank you for coming from different parts of the world and bringing here the richness of your faith and culture. Thank you for intensively living these days of sharing, work and commitment in the sign of dialogue, all the more valuable in such a difficult time, which is burdened not only by the pandemic but also by senseless war madness. Too much hatred and division, too much lack of dialogue and understanding of others: in a globalized world it is even more dangerous and scandalous. We cannot continue to join and separate, join and divide because of too many inequalities. I therefore thank you for your efforts for peace and unity. I thank the local authorities who hosted us and prepared and organized this congress with great care, and the friendly and courageous people of Kazakhstan, who are able to accept other cultures and at the same time preserve their noble history and precious traditions. Kiop raqmet! Thank you Bolshoe! Thank you very much!
The motto of my visit, which is now drawing to a close, is Messengers of Peace and Unity. It is plural because the path is shared. And this seventh congress, which the Most High allowed us to experience, marked an important milestone. Since its inception in 2003, this event has been modeled on the Day of Prayer for World Peace, which was convened by John Paul II in 2002. to Assisi to confirm the positive contribution of religious traditions to dialogue and concord between nations. After the events of September 11, 2001, it was necessary to respond, together, to the inflammatory atmosphere that terrorist violence sought to incite and which threatened to make religion a factor in conflict. However, pseudo-religious terrorism, extremism, radicalism and nationalism cloaked in the veil of the sacred still cause concern and fear of religion. So in these days it was providential to meet and reaffirm its true and inalienable essence.
In this regard, the declaration of our Congress affirms that extremism, radicalism, terrorism and any other incitement to hatred, enmity, violence and war, whatever their motivation or purpose, have nothing to do with the authentic spirit of religion and must be rejected as strongly as possible (cf. No. 5): condemned, without “if” and without “but”. Furthermore, based on the fact that the Almighty created all people equal, regardless of their religious, ethnic or social affiliation, we agreed that mutual respect and understanding must be considered essential and necessary in religious teaching (cf. no. 13).
Kazakhstan, which lies in the heart of the large and decisive Asian continent, was a natural meeting place for us. Her flag reminded us of the need to maintain a healthy relationship between politics and religion. If the golden eagle on the banner is reminiscent of earthly authority and reminiscent of ancient empires, the blue background evokes the color of heaven, transcendence. So there is a healthy connection between politics and transcendence, a healthy coexistence that keeps the two spheres distinct. Distinguishing, not confusing or separating. “No” to confusion for the good of the human being who, like the eagle, needs the open sky to fly, a free space open to infinity, unbound by earthly power. Transcendence, which, on the other hand, must not succumb to the temptation to turn into power, otherwise the sky would fall to earth, the divine beyond would be trapped in the earthly now, the love of neighbor in biased decisions. “No” confusion, that is. “No”, however, also the separation of politics and transcendence, because the highest human aspirations cannot be excluded from public life and relegated to the private sphere. May those who want to legitimately express their beliefs be protected always and everywhere. However, how many people are still persecuted and discriminated against because of their faith! We strongly called on governments and relevant international organizations to assist religious groups and ethnic communities that suffer violations of their human rights and fundamental freedoms and violence by extremists and terrorists, including as a result of wars and military conflicts (see No. 6). Above all, we must strive to ensure that religious freedom is not an abstract concept, but a concrete right. Let us defend for all the right to religion, to hope, to beauty: to heaven. Because not only Kazakhstan, as its anthem proclaims, is the “golden sun in the sky”, but every person: every man and every woman in their unrepeatable uniqueness, if they are in contact with the divine, can radiate a special light on earth.
That is why the Catholic Church, which never tires of proclaiming the inviolable dignity of every person, created “in the image of God” (cf. Gn 1:26), also believes in the unity of the human family. He believes that “all peoples form one community, they have one origin, because God gave all mankind to dwell on the whole surface of the earth” (Nostra aetate, 1). Therefore, the Holy See has been actively participating since the beginning of this congress, especially through the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue. And he wants to continue it: the path of interreligious dialogue is a common path of peace and for peace, and as such it is necessary and irreversible. Interreligious dialogue is no longer just an opportunity, but an urgent and irreplaceable service to humanity, to the praise and glory of the Creator of all.
Brothers and sisters, when I think about this journey together, I ask myself: where is our intersection? John Paul II – who visited Kazakhstan just twenty-one years ago – said that “all the ways of the Church lead to man” and that man is “the way of the Church” (encyclical Redemptor hominis, 14). I would like to say today that man is also the path of all religions. Yes, a concrete human being, weakened by a pandemic, exhausted by war, wounded by indifference! Man, a fragile and wonderful creature that “disappears without the Creator” (Gaudium et spes, 36) and does not exist without others! Before making important decisions, let’s focus on the good of people rather than on strategic and economic goals, national, energy and military interests. To make really great decisions, let’s turn to children, young people and their future, elderly people and their wisdom, ordinary people and their real needs. And let us raise our voices to shout that the human person is not reduced to what he produces and earns; that she must be welcomed and never rejected; that the family, in the Kazakh language “nest of soul and love”, is a natural and irreplaceable background that must be protected and supported so that the men and women of tomorrow can grow and mature.
Great wisdom and religion are called to bear witness to the existence of a common spiritual and moral heritage for all human beings, which is based on two cornerstones: transcendence and brotherhood. Transcendence, transcendence, reverence. It is beautiful that every day millions and millions of men and women of different ages, cultures and social backgrounds come together to pray in countless places of worship. It is the hidden force that keeps the world going. And then brotherhood, neighbor, closeness, because one who does not love his creatures cannot profess true devotion to the Creator. The declaration of our congress is also in this spirit, about which I would like to emphasize three words in conclusion.
The first is the synthesis of everything, the expression of the heartfelt call, the dream and the goal of our journey: peace! Beybitşilik, peace, peace! Peace is urgent because any military conflict or outbreak of tension and confrontation today can only have a harmful “domino effect” and seriously threaten the system of international relations (cf. no. 4). Peace, however, “Peace does not mean only that there is no war, nor is it limited to a mere balance of opposing forces, nor does it arise from tyrannical domination, but it is rightly and aptly spoken of as a “work of justice” (Isaiah 32:17)” (Gaudium et spes, 78). So it starts from brotherhood, grows in the struggle against injustice and inequality, and is built up by turning to others. We who believe in the Creator of all must be at the forefront of spreading peaceful coexistence. We must testify, preach and plead about it. Therefore, the declaration calls on world leaders to stop conflict and bloodshed everywhere in the world and to abandon aggressive and destructive rhetoric (see no. 7). We ask you in the name of God and in the interest of humanity: advocate peace, not arms! Only by serving peace will your name remain great in history.
If there is a lack of peace, it is because there is a lack of attention, kindness and the ability to create life. And so it must be sought through the greater involvement of – and that is the second word – women. Because woman gives care and life to the world: she is the way to peace. That is why we spoke out for the need to protect her dignity and improve her social status as an equal member of the family and society (cf. no. 24 23). Women must also be given a greater role and responsibility. How many deadly decisions we would avoid if women were at the center of decision-making! Let’s strive to make them more respected, recognized and included.
And finally, the third word: young people. They are messengers of peace and unity today and tomorrow. It is they who, more than others, call for peace and respect for the common house of creation. The logic of domination and exploitation, accumulation of resources, nationalisms, wars and zones of influence, on the contrary, draws an old world that young people reject, a world closed to their dreams and hopes. Likewise, rigid and suffocating religiosity does not belong to the future, but to the past. When we think of new generations, we confirm here the importance of education, which strengthens mutual acceptance and respectful coexistence between religions and cultures (cf. nos. 11 and 21). Let’s give young people an opportunity for education, not destructive weapons! And let us listen to them without fear of being questioned. Above all, let’s build the world with them in mind!
Brothers and sisters, the people of Kazakhstan, open to tomorrow and witness to so much suffering in the past, offer us an example of the future with their extraordinary multi-religiousness and multiculturalism. It invites us to build it without forgetting transcendence and brotherhood, worshiping the Supreme and accepting the other. Let us go forward like this, let us walk together on earth as children of heaven, weavers of hope and craftsmen of concord, messengers of peace and unity!
Translated by Petr Vacík