‘There can be no religious justification for violence, in whatever way it may manifest itself. … Dialogue is the way of peace.’

These words of Pope Francis, given at an international peace meeting in Rome on 30 September 2013, have not fallen on deaf ears. They are being translated into practical action in a range of different initiatives, almost all of them initiated by Christians.

In the Catholic run Al-Liqa Centre in Jerusalem, Israel, Christians and Jews, and Christians and Muslims meet together. Al-Liqa means ‘encounter’ and the centre organises talks, discussion forums, youth meetings and workshops for believers of all religions. The discussions are altogether down to earth and practical. The young people deal with the concrete issues such as ‘Life in a pluralistic society’.

And the dialogue is continued in the quarterly Al-Liqa Journal, in which leading figures from all three monotheistic religions write on such topics as the family in Islam, the Christian presence in Israel, teaching values, and so forth. Particular attention is paid to the theme of the dignity and role of women – a sensitive topic for some Islamic representatives. But the dialogue continues, leading to mutual understanding and not infrequently even to real friendships.

Only thanks to your generosity can the centre continue its precious work. Right now they are asking us for financial help. But they are sowing seeds of reconciliation in a region beset by violence and war.

Similarly in Nigeria, the Church is working tirelessly to promote reconciliation through interreligious dialogue. A precondition here is not only to know one’s own Christian faith but also Islamic beliefs. This is the purpose of the workshops for priests, seminarians, religious and catechists in the diocese of Osogbo in the southwest of the country.

The population here is approximately two thirds Muslim and the Islam-dominated state is putting pressure on other faiths. Compulsory measures like full body clothing for female pupils, even in the Catholic schools, make dialogue more difficult. Once again it is the Christians who are responding.

Workshops can help address these issues, and Father Akinkunmi sent us a detailed programme, which we plan to support with a contribution. ‘We religious leaders are called to work for peace’, said Pope Francis at the meeting in Rome. This can only happen, he said, ‘through dialogue and prayer. Both belong together, for dialogue has its roots in something beyond our own strength.’


This article can be found in Mirror 0517.