March 17, 2002
What if leaders of the world's major religions got together one day and denounced all religious violence? What if they unanimously agreed to make this plain, clear and bold statement to the world?
"Violence and terrorism are opposed to all true religious spirit and we condemn all recourse to violence and war in the name of God or religion." It could change the world. At the very least, it would be big news, wouldn't it? Apparently not.
More than 200 leaders of the world's dozen major religions did get together Jan. 24 in Assisi, Italy. Maybe you missed the story about it the next day. Most newspapers didn't carry it. And it was hidden inside many of those that did. There was a lot of other news that day. The Enron hearings opened in Washington. John Walker Lindh made his first court appearance.
It's no wonder the largest meeting of world religious leaders in history couldn't even make the front page. Pope John Paul II and a number of cardinals were at the meeting. So was Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of all Orthodox Christians. So were a dozen Jewish rabbis, including some from Israel. So were 30 Muslim Imams from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan. So were dozens of ministers representing Baptists, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Disciples of Christ, Mennonites, Quakers, Moravians, The Salvation Army and the World Council of Churches.
So were dozens of monks, gurus and others representing Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Zoroastrians and native African religions. They ignored the personal and political risk of attending such a high-profile gathering.
They convened and talked and prayed. They unanimously agreed to condemn every recourse to violence and war in the name of God or religion. They also said, "No religious goal can possibly justify the use of violence by man against man." And that "Whoever uses religion to foment violence contradicts religion's deepest and truest inspiration." They called their statement the Assisi Decalogue for Peace. It consists of 10 mutual commitments to work for peace and justice in the world, including this one:
"We commit ourselves to stand at the side of those who suffer poverty and abandonment, speaking out for those who have no voice,and to working effectively to change these situations." On March 4, the Pope sent a copy of the Decalogue to all of the world's heads of state.
Maybe you missed the story. It didn't even make the newspapers the next day, hidden inside or not. There was a lot of other news that day. Seven American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. Israeli troops killed 17 people in the West Bank. Mike Tyson got a license to box.
What if leaders of the world's major religions got together one day and denounced all religious violence — and no one cared?
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