By Francesca Sabatinelli & Linda Bordoni
30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Community of Sant’Egidio is holding a Prayer for Peace meeting in the Spanish capital, Madrid (15-17 September).
The encounter, which brings together hundreds of faith leaders from all corners of the globe, is entitled "Peace with no Borders: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue".
Pope Francis has sent his support for the meeting decrying the fact that God’s gift of peace is being wasted, with wars and with the construction of new walls and barriers.
One participant in the event is Rev. Dr. Martin Junge, the Secretary General of the Lutheran World Federation.
Speaking to Vatican News, he offered his perspective on the situation in Europe three decades after the fall of its dividing wall.
Dr Junge noted that indeed “many situations have improved with good development in many respects, yet at the same time, in other respects things have got worse.”
“You should never take peace for granted,” he said.
Peace, Dr Junge continued, is something you have to work for every day, again and again.
“Peace doesn’t come about because a wall has come down; peace doesn’t come because an agreement has been signed. Peace has to be nurtured every day,” he said.
The role of religions in nurturing peace
Dr Junge affirmed his strong belief that religions have a key role in promoting peace.
“We have a message on which we stand, and it is the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is a message of peace,” he said.
It is a message that surfaces again and again in the Scriptures, he explained: “What are the words that the angels say when Jesus Christ is revealed in Bethlehem? Peace be with you; what is it that Jesus says when he visits the disciples after the Resurrection? Three times he reminds them: Peace be with you.”
“So the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of peace,” he said.
And whenever we find ourselves promoting a different message, Dr Junge continued, “we have to go back, and read and pray and re-focus and re-center in that message”.
Faith and migration
Dr Junge spoke also of the Churches’ commitment to work towards protecting refugees and migrants.
“We do have a commitment out of faith: welcoming the stranger – you read it all over the Bible,” he said.
So, even more than a commitment, for faith-based communities, Dr Junge said it’s a commandment to welcome the stranger and to protect those seeking refuge.
“Out of that commandment,” he concluded, “we have to find the political instruments to handle that protection, but to say it is something we do not care about is not compatible with our foundations of faith”.