In 1986, specifically on October 27, religious leaders met with representatives of various Churches in the Italian township of Assisi, about 175 kilometers north of the capital, Rome, at the kind invitation of Pope John Paul II, who at that time wanted to pray for peace, harmony and unity among followers of religions for the attainment of a more comprehensive human solidarity.
Since then, what we call the “Spirit of Assisi” was formed among the followers of religions, their leaders, and representatives of Churches around the world, for the sake of the attainment of peace and amity in Earth. This meeting did not remain solitary as several similar meetings were held in the “Spirit of Assisi.” In 1988, religious representatives met in Rome, another meeting was held in 1994 in the Balkan countries, and a similar one was held in June of the same year for Rwanda which was wreaked by a bloody and grinding civil war. In 2002, the heads of religions met in Assisi as a response to what happened in 2001 in the wake of the terrorist acts that took place in New York.
The Community of Sant'Egidio adopted a plan to hold annual meetings that call for peace. Since 1987 up to this moment, a peace meeting is held at the end of October in one of the world's cities especially in Italy. This year, namely 2022, this meeting took place 20 years after the meeting of Assisi in 2002 which was aimed to forestall a war between United States and Iraq. This year, representatives of religions and Churches opted to gather in the Roman Colosseum amphitheater where thousands of Christians were martyred in the early centuries during the Roman persecution. Pope Francis delivered an address in which he said: “We are not neutral, but rather allied for peace. Therefore, we advocate the 'right to peace' as is the right of all to settle disputes without violence.” Several other addresses were delivered by representatives of religions.
What draws attention this year is that the final statement was titled, 'Il Grido della Pace' (The Cry for Peace) at a time when the war between Russia and Ukraine still continues. The statement was read out by Syrian youth Elissar who came to Italy as a refugee and is now pursuing her studies in major universities.
The representatives of Churches and world religions expressed their concern to the world and the world leaders by saying, "We become the voice of those who suffer from war, of the refugees and of the families of all the victims and those who have died." They added, "With firm conviction, no more war! let's stop every conflict. War only carries death and destruction. It is an adventure with no return, and everyone loses. Let the weapons be silent. Let a comprehensive ceasefire be announced immediately.” The statement concluded by saying: “Let us begin again jointly anew by initiating dialogue which is an effective medicine for reconciliation among peoples. Let us invest in every avenue of dialogue. Peace is always possible! No Neither again for war, nor for man to stand up against one's fellow brother.”
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa participated in this year's gathering as a sign that violence continues, that Israeli violations still exist, and that the Holy Land thirsts for peace, harmony, stability and independence. Thus, there was a variety of prayer intentions from Palestine to Syria to Iraq, to Ukraine, to the masses of refugees who are still waiting in the countries of the world to find their safe and peaceful future, especially for the children who have no hope other than God.
These meetings indicate that hope has not ended, and that we are still called upon to experience hope despite the ongoing bloody conflicts inflicting humanity, such conflicts that have emerged in the aftermath of the Corona epidemic, at a time when suffering from wars waged by man against one's fellow brethren while not ignoring the fact that there are also dangers that threaten the global climate while apparently moving into dangerous stages.
It is great that the words of the "The Cry for Peace" were uttered by the Syrian girl a few days before the apostolic trip of Pope Francis to the Kingdom of Bahrain, where he will participate in the Bahrain "Forum for Dialogue: “East and West for Human Coexistence.” Efforts are being exerted at the level of religious leaders, and all we have to do is pray for them to succeed.