The event of Christ appears as a super-abundant response to this hope that the religious history of man expresses. It constitutes an objective overcoming of the logic of violence and as such measures the past and the future of human history (‘I came into this world to judge’ (Jn 9:39). And thus it is that the commonest objection that from that moment onwards would be made did not concern so much the goodness of the new principle introduced by Christ as its practicability, which was said to be denied, first of all, by the numerous examples of unfaithfulness of Christians themselves. Without underestimating the importance of this appeal to a consistent personal and community life, Christian tradition saw the non-practicability of this idea at a purely human level as supreme witness (‘martyrdom’) to the divine at work in the world. It thus remained convinced that, with the grace of God, it is truly possible to ‘follow in the footsteps’ (1Pt 2:21) of the Crucified Christ who rose again. We are here truly at the heart of faith.
The definitive dismissal of the logic of violence that the paschal event brought with it is also the principal contribution which we as Christian believe that we can offer today to inter-religious dialogue. This was the great insight of Assisi and the message that Pope Francis has just repeated in the Holy Land, launching from the esplanades of mosques ‘make a heartfelt plea to all people and to all communities who look to Abraham: may we respect and love one another as brothers and sisters! May we learn to understand the sufferings of others! May no one abuse the name of God through violence! May we work together for justice and peace!’.(1) We then saw how from that appeal came the historic prayer meeting of the Israeli and Palestinian Presidents. On that occasion the Holy Father realistically observed that ‘our strength is not enough. More than once we have been near to peace but the Evil One, by different means, managed to impede it’. ‘For this reason’, the Pope added, ‘we are here because we know and we believe that we need the help of God. Let us not abandon our responsibilities but let us invoke God as an act of supreme responsibility, in front of our consciences and in front of our peoples. We have heard a call, and we must answer: the call to break the spiral of hatred and violence, and break it with a single word: ‘brother’. But to say this word we must all of us raise our eyes to heaven, and recognise that we are the children of the one Father’. A peace that is not a mere truce between armed opponents who accept a precarious modus vivendi because of the physical impossibility of destroying each other: authentic and cordial reconciliation can only be invoked as a gift of God and therefore a privileged setting of dialogue between believers of different religions. Along the same wavelength echoes in Sarajevo with especial force the address that John Paul II gave to the representatives of the Muslim community; it, too, being entirely centred around the search for peace as an expression of the will of God in relation to the world: ‘All human beings’, said John Paul II, ‘are placed by God on the earth so that they may walk a pilgrimage of peace, each starting from the situation he finds himself in and the culture that concerns him’.
Of course I am however the first to perceive how distant these statements sound from the news of recent years, precisely because of that growing gap between ideal aspirations and actual situations which I identified at the outset as a characteristic of our time. Never before has there been so much talk about peace and dialogue and never before have wars and oppositions been so frequent. The contradiction is real but we must not be downcast: if the ‘moral bar’ of the world were not gradually raised, probably we would not even be aware of so many episodes of violence and we would accept them as normal.
Like Oasis in particular we cannot accept as normal the fact that many Muslim societies are today troubled by violence. Although they are certainly not the only societies to experience this phenomenon, nonetheless the phenomenon has in recent years taken on extremely worrying levels, generating an unstoppable exodus, of Christians as of Muslims, which is depriving these countries of their best resources. Oasis, which was born to be near to Eastern Christians, cannot ignore their cry of pain and the cry of pain of entire peoples, in Syria, in Iraq, in Nigeria, in Palestine, everywhere that terrorism rages.
I do not have a solution in my pocket, there is a challenging work that urges us to a shared commitment. (…)
(1) Pope Francis, Visit to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, 26 April 2014.