Monday 23 September 2013

Prayer, the Word and loyal friendship as antidotes to diffused violence

Here are two examples among the many that could be mentioned with regards to the work being carried on by the communities of Sant’Egidio in the world to address the increase in violence in the cities and among the youth that are truly becoming  like the peripheries of existence that are the focus of the pastoral preoccupation of Pope Francis. It is a work made of education to peace and non-violence in the Schools for Peace, of dialogue with people and of prayer.
Mozambique, Sub-Saharan Africa.
The country is experiencing severe political and social tensions that sometimes escalate into episodes of
extreme violence. Small-caliber criminality contributes to fueling these tensions which turn into suspicion, night-time vigilantism but also, tragically, the lynching of alleged thieves. In Beira, the local community of Sant’Egidio, who intends to react to this fast-spreading phenomenon, has invited people to join in moments of prayer and meditation aimed at erasing the rancor and the hatred that everyone is feeling inside. This initiative proved fruitful. According to the police’s statistics, no recent case of lynching was reported in those neighborhoods (such as Munhava) in which Sant’Egidio had organized prayers for peace and reconciliation.
El Salvador, Central America.
Since 1992 the Community  has strengthened its presence and its ties of friendship in the neighborhoods of Bambular in San Salvador. El Salvador is submerged by a flood of violence, due to the maras, the youth gangs impregnated by a real blood cult and disrespect for life. This past July 3rd alone, we counted 27 murders. But at Bambular, where Sant’Egidio has been running for years the School for Peace, and where for some time now  people speak out against violence and in favor of peace and of a culture of life, the maras are not taking root.
The Community believes that it can change the world even in the most difficult contexts. It believes in the
weak strength that rises from prayer, a strength of peace and transformation of the hearts which could be felt even recently, in the vigil for Syria of this past September 7th.  Praying for peace, as was done in the Bambular chapel, also means thanking for the gift of a different human atmosphere in the neighborhood due to the long and loyal presence of Sant’Egidio.

Sunday 15 September 2013

The communities of Sant’Egidio all over the world join with the universal Church in the prayer vigil for peace on September 7th

All of the communities of Sant’Egidio everywhere in the world have embraced Pope Francis’ call for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria this past September 7th.
In Rome Sant’Egidio joined the many people (100,000 are estimated to have participated) that
were converging on Saint Peter’s Square to pause, listen and meditate, together with the Pope. It was a moment of togetherness and high spirituality. All feelings of powerlessness and resignation were confronted and defeated. It was the victory of faith and hope in He who is the Lord of history, the Prince of Peace, in He who is capable of destroying any wall of separation.
In many other dioceses, in about seventy countries of all continents, the communities of Sant’Egidio have inspired similar moments of prayer presenting God, together with Christians from different persuasions and women and men of goodwill and from all religions, with a unanimous invocation for Syria and for the various conflicts and tensions that afflict the planet.
This took place, to name but a few countries, in Germany and France, in a Europe that appears less capable than in the past to evoke an anti-war movement, but is still striving to find an exit strategy from the dead end of confrontation, from the risk that is inherent in the policies of ultimata. Prayer moments were also held in Africa which is marked by too many wars and dreams of a return or consolidation of peace; in Malawi and the Ivory Coast (in the city of
Abidjan, the Community showed the live images of the event being held in Rome); in the tormented Democratic Republic of Congo (in Goma, tragically, war is right around the corner); in Rwanda (as shown in the picture, the vigils organized by the principal dioceses of the country and presided over by the local bishops were particularly crowded); in Latin America, plagued by widespread violence; and in Asia, a continent in which the relationship between cultural and religious diversity is crucial in view of a twenty-first century that needs to move towards coexistence and dialogue (the picture shows the vigil in Faisalabad, in Pakistan).
As Pope Bergoglio said in his meditation on September 7th: “Humanity, made in the image
and likeness of God, is one family […]: the other person is a brother or sister to love. […] God’s world is a world where everyone feels responsible for the other, for the good of the other.” But the world of God can be our world, the world of man, to the extent that, together with the Pope, we choose “not the conflict but the encounter”, to the extent that we will continue to pray and work for peace. 

Monday 9 September 2013

Moving towards the Prayer for Peace

After Munich and Sarajevo, the annual International Meeting “Men and Religions” organized by the Sant’Egidio Community will take place in Rome. The theme will be “The courage of hope: religions and cultures in dialogue”.
From Sunday, September 29th through Tuesday, October 1st, more than 400 representatives of the great world religions as well as leading personalities from the world of culture and politics will take part in public meetings and debates, will live an important moment of sharing and dialogue, will celebrate a commitment to peace before the entire world.
The meeting represents a new, faithful incarnation of the same “spirit of Assisi”, of the first,
historic day of interreligious convergence on the topic of peace willed by John Paul II in the city of Saint Francis (October 1986).
The closing ceremony, after the prayer meetings conducted according to the different religious traditions, will take place the evening of October 1st in Capitol Square. Where once the Roman triumphs were celebrated, an Appeal for Peace will be proclaimed, underwritten by men and women with different histories but united by the same desire for peace.. It will be the triumph of a common wish for peace.
A message, a symbol, that reflects the new ecclesial season inaugurated by the election of Pope Francis, but also the difficult times marked by the dramatic news that come from the Middle East, from Syria. To pursue peace means to tend to the laborious path of dialogue, that is to live the courage of hope.  
It is with this perspective in mind that the Community of Sant’Egidio has accepted “with gratitude and total support”  the invitation by Pope Bergoglio to live a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria and in the rest of the world on September the 7th. 
“War begets war, violence begets violence! With all my strength” said the Pope during the Angelus of September 1st, the anniversary of the beginning of the Second World, “I ask the parties in this conflict to listen to the voice of their own conscience, not to close themselves in solely on their own interests, but rather to look at each other as brothers and decisively and courageously to follow the path of encounter and negotiation”.
The prayer of the faithful in the world wishes to force people to embrace such courage.
In Rome, in Saint Peter’s Square, from 7 pm to 11 pm of Saturday, September 7th, but also in a thousand other locations where the Community is present, Saint’Egidio will come together to pray and “invoke God to grant the great gift of peace for the beloved Syrian nation and for all situations marred by conflict and violence around the world”.  As Pope Francis concluded: “Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace!”
The prayer vigil of the 7th, as well as the meeting at the end of September, are meant to be a gesture of peace that all people may view with hope.