By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
At the invitation of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), members of the Catholic clergy, Jewish communities and youth movements, and several rectors of Pontifical Universities in Rome gathered at the Pontifical Gregorian University on Friday morning. WJC President, Ronald Lauder, and His Eminence Miguel Ayuso, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, addressed the Conference entitled Human Fraternity: A Reflection for Common Coexistence.
Progress and crisis
Mr Ronald Lauder told his audience that the 21st century is one that has brought many blessings: economic progress, fewer wars and less poverty. It has also produced a daunting challenge, he said. The escalation of technical progress has been accompanied by a spiritual crisis that the world’s religions have not been able to address. There is “less understanding, less tolerance, less sensitivity and less empathy” he said, and the persecution of minorities goes hand in hand with terrorism.
Ray of light
But this is not the last word. “This darkness,” Mr Lauder said, “has been pierced by the ray of light that is the Document on Human Fraternity” signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar on 4th February this year. He said this document is a “defining international document, that we Jews deeply respect…and endorse”. He likened it to a “spring of water in the desert”, heralding the “adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path, and mutual cooperation as the code of conduct”.
On this basis, each of world’s three monotheistic religions should defend the rights of the others when they are violated. They must together “safeguard freedom of worship…to be exercised everywhere, at all times”, and “to respect the religious practice of others”, he said. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all embrace peace. “there is no word more sacrosanct than shalom” in the Hebrew language, he reminded his listeners.
Milestone on path of interreligious dialogue
Cardinal Miguel Ayuso defined the Document on Human Fraternity as a “milestone on the path of interreligious dialogue”. It is a point of arrival because of past dialogue. But, the Cardinal stressed, it is also a point of departure. It promotes the movement from meeting face to face to working “shoulder to shoulder, side by side” in the promotion of peace in the world. This peace can be constructed by the daily commitment of all people of good will, believers as well as non-believers, to “contribute to the common good…to heal a wounded world”, he said.
The new paradigm offered by the document is that Human Fraternity is based on the bond existing between all members of the human family. Inclusion is the antidote to exclusion, the Cardinal said. Thus, every person is called to promote the dignity of every other person, no matter where they live, what religion they practice, what group they belong to.
Future of interreligious dialogue
“This is not a utopian idea”, the Cardinal continued. Instead, “it is necessary to leave a better world to future generations.” Cardinal Ayuso then concluded with the hope that, with the sacredness of life as the unifying factor between the world’s three monotheistic religions, “this event will be fruitful in building a new face in interreligious dialogue to explore how people of various religions can work together for global peace”.
The World Jewish Congress
Ronald Lauder has served as the WJC President since June 2007. He has used his position to promote those causes of particular importance to Jews and their communities throughout the world. With the recent rise in violence targeting people of various religious faiths, Mr Lauder says this “underscores for us just how essential interfaith dialogue and cooperation are in progressing toward our vision of a more peaceful and secure world for all peoples”. In this context, the signing of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, on February 4, 2019, is the inspiration that motivated the WJC to organize Friday’s Congress.