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Thursday, November 21, 2013
November 20-22, 2013. Representatives of several religious traditions from around the world meet in Vienna, Austria. Faith as a tool for dialogue and the defense of human dignity against violence and discrimination.

Ninth General Assembly of Religions for Peace (RFP) in Vienna Austria (November 20-22, 2013). Approximately 600 delegates from around the world, representing religious cultures who express the desire for the Absolute in different ways: Baha’is, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Jains, Hindus, Aboriginal and traditional religions, Muslims, Sikhs, Shintoists and Zoroastrians.

The Assembly was preceded by a conference promoted by King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID ). This is an international Centre for interreligious and cultural dialogue founded through the initiative of Saudi Arabia, Spain and Austria, which also recognizes the important role of the Holy See as a a founder, although participating only as an observer.

“Welcoming the other” was the motto of the Ninth Assembly, and this is the challenge of today in a world where the encounter between diverse peoples and cultures, belief systems and social customs is so common. The assembly proposes to contrast the growing tendency to consider those who are different with hostility, by promoting tolerance and acceptance of the other for the progress of human dignity.

Maria Voce, currently the president of the Focolare Movement is as of this year, Co-President of the World Council of (RfP), along with 49 representatives from several religions and cultures including Rev. Nichiko Niwano (Buddhist President of the Rissho Kosei-kai in Japan), Rabbi David Rosen (Jewish President of the International Jewish Committee of Interreligious Consultation), Madam Cisse Hadja Mariama Sow (Muslim President of the Muslim Women of Guinea), Dr. Agnes R. Abuom (Anglican Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches in Kenya).

“Welcoming the other – a multi-religious vision of peace . . . is such a timely idea in today’s world,” Maria Voce stated in her presentation. But she also emphasized that “there is need for a conversion of the heart . . . and this is where the crucial role of religion comes in. Religions need to offer from their innermost depths the spiritual strength to lead humankind toward solidarity and peace. They need to bring about projects that are capable of renewing relations not only at the individual level but also among people of different races, nationalities and cultures.”

Chiara Lubich, whom I am representing today, and who strongly supported Religions for Peace, had spent her entire life for the building up of unity in the human family. She was inspired to this by the prayer of Jesus: “That all may be one” (Jn 17:21). Based on Chiara’s example, ever since the beginning of the Movement, we have looked upon every person, that other one who is different from us, as a companion on the journey, a brother or sister without whom we cannot go and present ourselves before God. Today Chiara invites us to: ‘Keep our gaze fixed on the one Father of many children. Then see all creatures as children of this one Father (. . .) To constantly strive (. . .) for universal brotherhood in one only Father: God.” She concluded before offering two helpful witnesses which confirm what Chiara Lubich believed: “Therefore, love of neighbor spreads its roots not just because of some philanthropy but because of the fact that we are all children of one Father. And if we are children of the same Father, we are brothers and sisters to each other.”  Chiara Lubich and the Religions will be the theme of a meeting scheduled for March 2014 at the Urbaniana University of Rome on the 6th anniversary of her death.

Religions for Peace, begun as a World Conference of the Religions For Peace, has been in operation since 1970 promoting peace processes and finding answers to the issues that challenge the human family today.


Press Area:  Focus: “Welcoming the other” to build peace