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Day of Prayer for Peace, Assisi, Italy
Hosted by Pope John Paul II
January 24, 2002

Our five woman delegation has just returned from the Day of Prayer in Assisi.
Our delegation was hosted by and consisted of: founder of A Healing Among Nation's, Bonnie Mansdorf, Sister Gita Patel of the BrahmaKumaris of Los Angeles Center, Claire Saulnier, Nora Van der Velden (Netherlands of C.O.M.I., and Sonoko Tanaka (Japan and Italy) of World Peace Prayer Society and Byakko.

For all information on the prayers, programs, speeches, photos, etc. go to:
Day of Prayer for Peace in the World
and
More Day of Prayer

Upon our arrival we heard a story, secondhand, about 'what ever happened to Mother Teresa'. In 1986 Agnes Boyaxhiu a simple onlooker to the prayer meetings, witnessed Mother Teresa entering the Piazza San Rufino. She said, "Perhaps it's the way you feel when a complex meaning becomes clear: a human being, a woman who had not subjected her way of life to theories, but immersed herself in an existence of joy, of suffering so as to alleviate the sufferings of others with the hope that others would follow her. Mother Teresa is dead now. She was beatified and then disappeared, nothing more has been said of their great daughter in the Church... will these prayer fests touch the poor as she did, will these prayer fests reveal spiritual strength stronger than the wind?"

Pope John Paul II has an innate understanding of the gift Mother Teresa has touched us all with, yet at the same time it became apparant that he had much resistance to accomplishing his vision within the structure of his own system, that of the Vatican. As a Christian the Pope he has underlined that there is an unavoidable interdependence between peace, justice and forgiveness. Justice is not enough; we need to reach the point of forgiving one another. With this approach we exclude simply doing justice as payback for their violated rights could be enough to get a stable peace.Assisi draws all in the spirit of St. Francis and Sister Clare, in love and forgiveness; the faces of the entire planet yet again, confirming the guiding role this city plays in the dialogue between religions and cultures; a contribution of vital energy to the planet and to peace and solidarity.

Assisi does not have a geographic dimension. It is an icon of a prophecy of the spirit and resonates in the conscience, outside the confines of religious affiliation. The life of St. Francis reflects Assisi as a symbol of universal love, gentleness, forgiveness, openness towards the weakest, poorest, the naked and those marginalized by our society. Assisi is in other words, a contemporary icon of a superior form of the City of Man, being the sister city with Bethlehem.

Here, men and women, through a common and universal language, learned to recognize the Creator and to recognize themselves as brothers and sisters, one to the other initiating the evolution of consciousness residing within the sanctified earth where all countries, where all nations may become cradles of brotherhood.

Some say that he is doing what St. Francis did on the battlefield, inviting peace with defenseless hands.

Almost eight hundred years ago, the Middle East was under siege of the fifth Crusade and St. Francis made his way to Egypt and miraculously impressed the Sultan al Kamil, a Muslim, with his humble and loving presence. St. Francis asked the Sultan to choose peace.

What is significant to address is that this action which St. Francis initiated almost eight centuries ago was now realizing the fruit of its efforts so tangibly experienced by the meeting of the Mideast religious leaders in Egypt and their agreement for peace declared as the First Alexandria Declaration of the Religious leaders of the Holy Land. This meeting was taking place at the same time the Day of Prayer for Peace was ocurring in Assisi on January 21, 2002.

This time, we clearly see that the meeting of all heads of religion in Assisi has a sense of urgency and elements of contingency that it did not have from what I had heard in 1986. It is a great rally of a global network of pacifists from every religion, not just a meeting between Jewish, Christian, Muslim and other leaders.

In a historical period like the current one, continued to be marked by religious intolerance that increases conflicts and raises barriers, many are reminded of October 27, 1986. That day of prayer went down in history as a symbol of an aspiration, as a foreshadowing of a long and difficult path yet to follow. Everything had been planned in a meticulous way; every move, every moment of the ceremonial had been studied in such a way as to highlight each individual religion, avoiding the risk of making insincere connections between them. From this, the decision was made as today in 2002, that each delegation was to pray separately in a placed assigned to them, and converge later in Piazza San Francesco for the communal prayer.

The great and true leader of the Day of Prayer was the Word.
A word that is never empty, that tends to raise itself in order to receive truth and give rise to vital energies.

For this reason the exponents of religions decided to come to Assisi from everywhere in the name of that Word that has been entrusted with regulating the heartbeat of the world. In this way the word became prayer, expressed in a thousand different languages and gestures by Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Shintoists, Sikhs, Jews, Gianinists, Baha'is, Zoroastrians, American Indians and Traditional Religions of Africa and yes, also students and teachers of all the Ageless Wisdom.

"You are the great Finger we cannot avoid when tying the knot-recites an African prayer-Tumultuous Thunder that splits great trees."

Putting oneself on the path means to share a common horizon. By walking together one is able to hear the voice of god more clearly.

At the end there was a final prayer in the Piazza where each leader, in his own words, showed how roads can exist to insure peace; roads that don't go through agreements of faith and the religions of the Spirit. They were all together, with diverse and meditative faces.

In 1986, a story of value said that up there on the platform reserved for the religious authorities there was only one furtive smile, that of Okomfo Kodwo Akom, exponent of the traditional African religions.

He had prayed in the Reconciliation Room invoking the rain, amid the polite protests of the organizers that bad weather would ruin the day.
But Okomfo was unyielding. "The rain is necessary for prayer," he said, "like a bow to hunters. It softens the hearts and cleans brains." And so, when the first drops began to fall in the Piazza, Okomfo looked serenely to the sky, thankful to the god of the Spirits and the forests, for having given them His tears of joy. di Paolo Mirti

John Paul II inherited from Pope Roncalli an absolute love of the Poor Fellow and his land. In October, 1986 he organized the most important ecumenical meeting in recent history. Leaders from more than sixty religious denominations prayed in various areas of the city and at the end of the day they participated together in a collective liturgy in the lower square of St. Francis.

He said, "Peace waits for its prophets and its authors. We entrust the cause of peace especially to our young people. They themselves contribute to freeing history from the roads that divert humanity.
Then he called the leaders of the planet to a greater task: "Nations are given the honorable duty to base their actions in favor of peace, on the conviction of the sacredness of human life and the recognition of the indelible equality of all of the people among them.

Prayer is the action itself, yet it does not exonerate us from doing other deeds at the service of peace."

di Gino Bulla, states that "in 1986, it was said that that day symbolically ended the age of the Crusades. The symbol, though exaggerated, brought about an exhausting process of dismantling of the enemy identity, fed by mythological material and historical and cultural build up. This requires a kind of radicalization from the religions, and particularly from the Christians, to reach the very depth of their identity, where you cannot help but find the common ground of the three religions of Abraham, and therefore the key to a communal identity, which is the real answer to the conflicts between civilizations."

Even more, we now face the challenge of shaping our destiny. Our generation, all the thousands of generations before us, is called upon to decide the fate of all life on this planet. It is imperative to release the obsolete values and beliefs, of a fragmented consciousness and a self-centered spirit, with outdated goals and behaviors. We have a fundamental obligation to evolve the spirit and the consciousness that could enable us to perceive our true identity, as divine beings, and further enable us to perceive the true nature of our problems and our opportunities and to begin acting on them.

In 1993, Europe was infected by another terrible war, the one in former Yugoslavia. "We cannot stand by and watch these innocent people die essentially from the indifference of the world," confides the Pope to the bishop of Assisi, Sergio Goretti. And this is what signals another two days of prayer in Assisi, January 9th and 10th, 1993. di Carlo Cianetti

We are witness to the words of commitment, the Word to create a world of peace in which all men, women and children may live with dignity, food, shelter, and love. It is made on this day, January 24, 2002 and sealed within the greater seal and acknowledged by the touch of our handshakes and the golden healing glow of the lighted oil lamps.

May Peace Prevail on Earth


Religious Leaders reach unprecedented joint accord on the Holy Land

More than a dozen senior Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders from the Holy Land have concluded an unprecedented joint declaration pledging themselves to work together for a just and lasting peace. The agreement, to be known as the First Alexandria Declaration of the Religious Leaders of the Holy Land, was approved today (Monday 21 January) at a landmark conference of religious leaders in the Egyptian port city, chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey.

The seven-point declaration pledges the faith leaders to use their
religious and moral authority to work for an end to violence and the
resumption of the peace process. It also envisages the establishment of a permanent committee of leaders from the three religions in the Holy Land,
to pursue the implementation of the declaration. The accord also calls on
Israeli and Palestinian political leaders to implement the Mitchell and
Tenet recommendations.

Dr Carey said; The Holy Land is holy to us all Christian, Muslim and
Jew. We have a shared duty therefore to do all we can to make it a land of
peace and harmony. I hope this conference and the declaration the religious
leaders have concluded may become a landmark in the quest for that peace
and harmony. I hope too it will come to be seen as an historic moment for
the co-operation of our three faiths in the region.

The conference received support in advance from both the Israeli Prime
Minister, Ariel Sharon, and the President of the Palestinian Authority,
Yasser Arafat. Dr Carey said he hoped its outcomes would also receive the
clear backing of political leaders.

He said: Of course no declaration by religious leaders or anyone else can
act as a magic wand a panacea for all the ills and injustices, the
savagery and inhumanity that have scarred and continue to scar the Holy
Land. We are not so naive. But it is our duty and our desire to do what we
can to bring forth good from evil hope from despair.

The conference, which began on Sunday, is the first occasion on which such
senior figures from the three religions have held focused discussions in
this way. It is being co-hosted by the Grand Imam of al-Azhar al-Sharif
Dr Mohamed Sayed Tantawy, the most senior Islamic figure in Egypt and
holder of one of the most prestigious positions among Sunni Muslims
worldwide.


The First Alexandria Declaration of the Religious Leaders
of the Holy Land

In the Name of God who is Almighty, Merciful and Compassionate, we, who have
gathered as religious leaders from the Muslim, Christian and Jewish
communities, pray for true peace in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, and declare
our commitment to ending the violence and bloodshed that denies the right to
life and dignity.

According to our faith traditions, killing innocents in the name of God is a
desecration of his Holy Name, and defames religion in the world. The violence
in the Holy Land is an evil which must be opposed by all people of good
faith. We seek to live together as neighbors, respecting the integrity of
each others historical and religious inheritance. We call upon all to oppose
incitement, hatred and the misrepresentation of the other.

The Holy Land is Holy to all three of our faiths. Therefore, followers of the
divine religions must respect its sanctity, and bloodshed must not be allowed
to pollute it. The sanctity and integrity of the Holy Places must be
preserved, and freedom of religious worship must be ensured for all.
Palestinians and Israelis must respect the divinely ordained purposes of the
Creator by whose grace they live in the same land that is called Holy.
We call on the political leaders of both parties to work for a just, secure
and durable solution in the spirit of the words of the Almighty and the
Prophets.

As a first step now, we call for a religiously sanctioned cease-fire,
respected and observed on all sides, and for the implementation of the
Mitchell and Tenet recommendations, including the lifting of restrictions and
a return to negotiations.

We seek to help create an atmosphere where present and future generations
will co-exist with mutual respect and trust in the other. We call on all to
refrain from incitement and demonization, and to educate our future
generations accordingly.

As religious leaders, we pledge ourselves to continue a joint quest for a
just peace that leads to reconciliation in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, for
the common good of all our peoples.

We announce the establishment of a permanent joint committee to carry out the
recommendations of this declaration, and to engage with our respective
political leadership accordingly.


Delegates

His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey
His Eminence Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawy
The Sephardi Chief Rabbi Bakshi-Doron
The Deputy Foreign Minister, Rabbi Michael Melchior
The Rabbi of Tekoa, Rabbi Menachem Fromen
Rabbi David Rosen, President of the WCRP
The Rabbi of Savyon, Rabbi David Brodman
Rabbi Yitzak Ralbag, Rabbi of Maalot Dafna
Chief justice of the Sharia Courts, Sheikh Taisir Tamimi
Minister of State for the PA, Sheikh Tal El Sider
Mufti of the Armed Forces, Sheikh Abdulsalam Abu Schkedem
The Mufti of Bethlehem, Sheikh Taweel
Representative of the Greek Patriarch, Archbishop Aristichos
The Latin Patriarch, His Beatitude Michel Sabbah
The Melkite Archbishop, Archbishop Boutrous Mualem
Representative of the Armenian Patriarch, Archbishop Chinchinian
The Bishop of Jerusalem, the Rt Revd Riah Abu El Assal
     
         
         
 

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