UAE, UAE, DUBAI - Diplomacy
As-salí¢mu alaykum. Peace be with you. With a heart grateful to the Lord, in this eighth centenary of the meeting between Saint Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al Kí¢mil, I have welcomed the opportunity to come here as a believer thirsting for peace, as a brother seeking peace with brethren. We are here to desire peace, to promote peace, to be instruments of peace.
The logo of this journey depicts a dove with an olive branch. It is an image that recalls the story—present in different religious traditions—of the primordial flood. According to the biblical account, in order to preserve humanity from destruction, God asked Noah to enter the ark along with his family. Today, we too in the name of God, in order to safeguard peace, need to enter together as one family into an ark which can sail the stormy seas of the world: the ark of fraternity.
The point of departure is the recognition that God is at the origin of the one human family. He who is the Creator of all things and of all persons wants us to live as brothers and sisters, dwelling in the common home of creation which he has given us. Fraternity is established here at the roots of our common humanity, as “a vocation contained in God’s plan of creation.” This tells us that all persons have equal dignity and that no one can be a master or slave of others.
We cannot honor the Creator without cherishing the sacredness of every person and of every human life: each person is equally precious in the eyes of God, who does not look upon the human family with a preferential gaze that excludes, but with a benevolent gaze that includes. Thus, to recognize the same rights for every human being is to glorify the name of God on earth. In the name of God the Creator, therefore, every form of violence must be condemned without hesitation, because we gravely profane God’s name when we use it to justify hatred and violence against a brother or sister. No violence can be justified in the name of religion.
I wish to express appreciation for the commitment of this nation to tolerating and guaranteeing freedom of worship and to confronting extremism and hatred. Even as the fundamental freedom to profess one’s own beliefs is promoted—this freedom being an intrinsic requirement for a human being’s self-realization—we need to be vigilant lest religion be instrumentalized and deny itself by allowing violence and terrorism. There is no alternative: we will either build the future together or there will not be a future. Religions, in particular, cannot renounce the urgent task of building bridges between peoples and cultures. The time has come when religions should more actively exert themselves, with courage and audacity, and without pretense, to help the human family deepen its capacity for reconciliation, the vision of hope, and the concrete paths of peace.
The purpose of education, which in Latin means “extracting, drawing out,” is to bring to light the precious resources of the soul. It is comforting to note how in this country investments are being made not only in the extraction of the earth’s resources, but also in those of the heart, in the education of young people. It is a commitment that I hope will continue and spread elsewhere. Education also happens in a relationship, in reciprocity. Alongside the famous ancient maxim “know yourself,” we must uphold “know your brother or sister:” their history, their culture, and their faith, because there is no genuine self-knowledge without the other. As human beings, and even more so as brothers and sisters, let us remind each other that nothing of what is human can remain foreign to us. It is important for the future to form open identities capable of overcoming the temptation to turn in on oneself and become rigid.
Investing in culture encourages a decrease of hatred and a growth of civility and prosperity. Education and violence are inversely proportional. Catholic schools, well appreciated in this country and in the region, promote such an education on behalf of peace and reciprocal knowledge in order to prevent violence. Young people, who are often surrounded by negative messages and fake news, need to learn not to surrender to the seductions of materialism, hatred, and prejudice. They need to learn to object both injustice and the painful experiences of the past. They need to learn to defend the rights of others with the same energy with which they defend their own. One day, they will be the ones to judge us, and they will judge us well if we have given them a solid foundation for creating new encounters of civility.
*From a speech given in Abu Dhabi at the Interreligious meeting at the Founder’s Memorial 2019.