By Devin Watkins
The G20 Interfaith Forum runs from 12-14 September in the Italian city of Bologna, and is meant to promote healing from the Covid-19 pandemic and the many conflicts lacerating the world.
Religious leaders taking part in the annual event seek to engage with the agenda of the G20, a forum for international economic cooperation amongst the world’s 20 largest economies.
Pope Francis sent his greetings to participants in the Interfaith Forum on Saturday evening.
The Pope praised the forum’s goal of sharing ideas and hopes through interfaith dialogue and the promotion of religious freedom.
He said the role of religions is essential in overcoming war and hatred, since “true religion consists in adoring God and loving our neighbor.”
“More than putting something on display, we are called to show the fatherly presence of the Heavenly God through our harmony on earth,” he said.
Misuse of God’s Name
Pope Francis went on to lament that we are, however, far from that achieving that ideal.
He cited figures which indicate that over 3,000 attacks on places of worship have taken place in the past 40 years, killing over 5,000 people.
“It is too easy to see that those who blaspheme God’s holy Name by persecuting their brothers and sisters can still find financing,” he said.
Called to serve truth
However, religious leaders are called to “serve truth” and “declare without hesitation and fear that evil is evil, even and especially when those who commit the acts profess our same creed.”
The Pope then called for education in religion, to overcome “religious illiteracy” which cuts across many societies.
“We must educate,” he said, “promoting equitable and integral development which builds up opportunities for schooling and education, because wherever undisputed poverty and ignorance prevail so too does fundamentalist violence.”
Peace found in justice, not arms
Pope Francis urged peoples of all religions to put aside arms and forgive one another as brothers and sisters.
“The path of peace is not found in arms but in justice,” said the Pope. “And we religious leaders should be the first to support this process, by witnessing to the fact that overcoming evil consists not in proclaiming but in prayer, not in revenge but in harmony, not in the shortcuts offered by strength but in the patient and constructive force of solidarity.”
Fundamental right of peace
Peace, concluded Pope Francis, should be promoted as a fundamental right for all people of the world.
“We should not be neutral,” he said, “but allied on the side of peace!”
The Pope also called for peace to be added as a fourth “P” in the tryptic of “People, Planet, Prosperity”.
“Truly, the time for alliances of some against others has past,” said Pope Francis. “Now is the time for alliances in the search for shared solutions to the problems of all.”