Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Spirit of Assisi

Religious differences as a factor in social violence has become a familiar theme, and one which the New Atheists make much of. In October at Assisi, the Pope invited to a gathering of religious believers a number of agnostics, led by Julia Kristeva – people “people to whom the gift of faith has not been given, but who are nevertheless on the lookout for truth, searching for God.” He saw that such seekers are the true allies of the faithful. They seek truth and goodness. They are “pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace.” “They ask questions of both sides,” never giving up hope in “the existence of truth and in the possibility and necessity of living by it.” But they will not settle easily and blindly into faith. They challenge the followers of religions “not to consider God as their own property, as if he belonged to them, in such a way that they feel vindicated in using force against others.” This is the critique we need, for believers have done more harm than good by their attempts to manipulate others into faith. Once again, we see the importance of keeping faith in harmony with reason, because it is unreasonable to trust hypocrites. Unfortunately, physical violence in the name of faith is only the tip of the iceberg: violence begins with judgment and rejection, fear and resentment, anger and pride. The path to peace is the path of prayer and opening to grace, which alone can renew the face of the earth.

For an interesting article on the Pope's approach to inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue, by Gabriel Richi-Alberti of Oasis, go here.

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