The Role of Religious Leaders in Building A Peace

Based on Tolerance, Mutual Respect and Cooperation

Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran

Astana, Kazakhstan

1 July 2009

Mr. President,

Eminencies, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Friends

My first thought is an expression of gratitude to God All Loving and Almighty Who gave us the grace to come together in this welcoming country, rich of its great variety of ethnicities, traditions, cultures and religions. Kazakhstan is a clear demonstration that harmony can match with diversity!

I bring you the greetings and good wishes of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI whom I have the honour to represent at this gathering. The Pope follows with interest this important event and prays that it be a valuable contribution for the peace and harmony among persons and communities of various religions.

I intend to speak of how the Catholic Church understands peace, how to build peace and what is the specific role of religious leaders at this end.

1. Peace 

Christians consider peace as a gift from God and at the same time the ‘fruit’ of human hands. It implicates at the same time God and man. Christ said to his disciples, before his death and resurrection, that he leaves them “his peace”. Christians have therefore a particular vision of peace. It is not only the absence of war, or the balance of terror, but is the sum of many goods, especially that of security. It is the fruit of justice. War, on the contrary, with all its chain of horrors, is one of worst tragedies that can occur to communities and nations. Peace grows like a precious plant, it needs continuous caring. Humanity needs promote a culture of peace always and everywhere.

May I mention two particular initiatives of the Catholic Church at the service of peace. The first one: the establishment of a Day of Prayer for Peace the 1st January, and the sending by the Pope of a Message for Peace to the political leaders of the World. The second one: the establishment of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace which manifests the intrinsic link between peace and justice.

2. Basis of Peace

The theme of this Congress indicates three basis of peace: tolerance, mutual respect and cooperation.

2.1. Tolerance

Tolerance has a rather negative meaning; it could nevertheless be considered a lesser evil, a minimum. A brother is not just to be tolerated; he has to be loved.

2.2. Mutual Respect

Respect is a core value, a fundamental concept in human relations. Without it, nothing good could be achieved even if other noble sentiments are present like pity, compassion etc. Respect of the other does not mean acceptation of what he believes or approval of his behaviour. It is rather an attitude of consideration based of the fundamental and inalienable dignity of every human being.

2.3. Cooperation

This means working together for the common good and to help those who are in all kinds of need, especially the most needy.

The issue of cooperation among believers of different religions has been often raised. Many ask that dialogue go beyond nice elites’ exchange, to go from words to deeds.

The Catholic Church teaching retains four major forms of dialogue: the dialogue of life, the dialogue of action, the dialogue of theological exchange, and the dialogue of religious experience. What interests us more in this case is “the dialogue of action in which Christians and other collaborate for the integral development and liberation of people.” (Dialogue and Proclamation. Reflections and Orientations on Interreligious Dialogue and the Proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Joint Document of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples, Vatican City 19 May 1991).

As we are speaking of the basis of peace, let us remember the four pillars of peace mentioned in the encyclical Pacem in Terris of Pope John XXIII: Truth, Justice, Love and Liberty. No peace without justice, no justice without love, no love without liberty. It is my pleasure to inform you that these peace foundations have been the object of a Christian-Muslim Colloquium held in Rome in 2003.

3. Building Peace and the Role of Religious Leaders

In the process of peace building, religious leaders occupy an important role, even a decisive one. Along with the family and the school, they are among the most important educators. They teach and educate through their words and especially through their example. If their teaching is one of respect of every person, his or her dignity, rights – especially in the religious field -, of universal fraternity, pardon, benevolence, the fruits will certainly be peace among persons and communities. You know that religions are some times accused of being source of conflict, this is why many look at them with suspicion, even with fear. It is therefore our responsibility as religious leaders to prove that they are mistaken and that the vocation of religions and of religious leaders is to promote and to protect the divine precious gift of peace.

Dear Friends,

Our world is what we want it to be; our future is the one we choose and construct together. Our presence as religious leaders, scholars and personalities representing our respective communities is an evident expression of our wish and commitment of friendly and constructive relations among the followers of all religions. Let us work for peace, build peace, give and receive peace!