Switzerland: Inter-religious meeting organized by Catholics

Source: FSSPX News


A large crowd, including members of the diplomatic corps, of international organizations and of the Genevan political society, met together on the evening of January 27, at the church of St-Nicolas de Flue in Geneva. The Roman Catholic Church was organizing its traditional inter-religious meeting for the World Day for Peace.

Hundreds of believers of a large range of confessions thus met together along with Bishops Bernard Genoud, Pierre Farine, and Silvio Tomasi, Apostolic Nuncio and the Holy See’s permanent observer at the UN. All were together to pray and reflect on the theme proposed by Pope John Paul II for this day: “An ever relevant engagement: educating for peace”.

This theme could not but be approved unanimously, as the messages from the various speakers well showed. “Only the spirit of justice, reconcilation and love for our brothers and sisters can bring us to the peace of God in the world,” thus said the Metropolite Jeremias of the Orthodox diocese of Switzerland of the ecumenical Patriarchate.

It is false to think that he who wants peace must prepare for war: a glance at the international events of the last few decades suffices to demonstrate this, remarked the Venerable Dhammika, representing the Buddhist community. “Hatred is never calmed by hatred in this world, but by love alone, which is an eternal law.” And he invited everyone to “combat anger and cultivate kindness and warmth of heart, as it is through the transformation of one’s own heart that the transformation of others is effected.”

The human being is born into the world naturally good, pointed out Hafid Ouardiri, the very Rousseauesque spokesman for the Mosque of Geneva. It is the education that he will receive, and the example given by the conduct of his elders, which will determine his growth or his going astray. The family plays a major role in this: that of giving the child all the love and affection that he needs. Hafid Ouardiri also recalled the importance of teaching the young the values which guarantee peace: nobility of heart, uprightness, impartiality towards others and oneself, modesty, being content with what one has, gentleness, aspiration towards higher things, patience, disinterestedness, gratitude. Values which we must realize by acts, since “God only improves the fortunes of a society in the measure with which the individuals of which it is composed contribute themselves to this improvement.”

Evoking the Biblical figure of Noah, “who agreed to be saved alone from death along with his family” instead of sharing the common lot as did Moses, Izhak Dayan, chief Rabbi of the Israeli community of Geneva, spoke in favor of solidarity and openness: “Let us not shut ourselves in our “Ark” – our synagogues, monasteries, churches, mosques, temples or any other holy places of prayer – leaving others to their own fate.” In face of the fresh outbreak of anti-Semitism in Europe, Dayan recalled that according to the Bible, man was created in God’s image, independently of his origin, his religion, his sex, or the color of his skin; in striking a blow at human dignity, it is therefore God, in fact, Whom we strike.

Peace rests on the four pillars of truth, justice, love and freedom, said Bishop Bernard Genoud, before giving a philosophical analysis of Christian liberty, which has nothing to do with “the inalienable right to decide in complete autonomy what one does or does not do”, but rather is felt as a vocation to grasp Truth and seek Good. Peace therefore can only be established with the help of “a basic consensus on the major moral principles and on a code of essential values”, for the promotion of which we must mobilize our entire educational system, from kindergarten to university. These values are “civic sense, respect for truth, solidarity, fidelity to promises, justice, respect for man in his unique value, the sense of service, resistance to the consumerist spirit and to the sirens of ease.” Recalling, in the wake of the pope, that in the establishment of a durable peace, “justice must find its complement in charity,” Bishop Genoud concluded his exposé in extolling love, which is “the highest and most noble form of the relation of human beings with each other.” – As for Christ, He seemed to be very much absent. Inter-religious dialogue obliged!

Isabelle Graessle, moderator of the company of Genevan pastors, was the only speaker to go beyond theoretical discourse to give a concrete example. Is peace imaginable and possible? An essential question to which one is tempted to reply from a purely idealistic point of view, saying that peace only exists as a promise, she remarked at first, before evoking “a moment in history when the ideal was translated into reality”. Namely, a little known episode from Genevan history, dating from 1603, which illustrates the peace-making role played by the religious leaders of the epoch. Solicited by the Genevan authorities who were hesitating on whether to enter into negotiations with the Savoyards, the pastors of Geneva pronounced firmly in favor of peace. – “An example to follow, now more than ever!” according to the press agency Apic, which was present at this very instructive inter-religious evening.