Apostolic Journey to Bahrain
Meeting with the Members of the Muslim Council of Elders
Interfaith Dialogue and 21st Century Challenges
His Eminence Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot
November 4, 2022
For the text in Arabic, see the link above.
Distinguished Members of the Muslim Council of Elders,
I have the honour of addressing you in the name of the Vatican delegation.
Of course, there are many challenges to be faced in the 21st century, but I would like briefly to focus on a common and shared problem between us Christians and Muslims, and which is at the source of many other challenges, namely the environmental crisis.
Our fragility as human beings and our interdependence, which have been eloquently highlighted by situations of conflict and the Covid-19 pandemic, are more than enough reason to be united and committed to working together to improve humanity.
Let us therefore promote unity, solidarity and fraternity among all, so that we can face together, with courage, the challenges of the 21st century and those of the immediate future. The hope is that together we can emerge from the current crisis better and stronger, and that we can help our societies to become more humane, to become places where people care for each other and for creation.
There is an urgent need for the faithful of different religions to join forces to promote an ecologically responsible social order based on shared values. The ecological crisis and the protection of the environment with regard to people, the planet, prosperity, peace and social coexistence are essential for all faiths and are inextricably linked to each other.
Leaders of religious communities also play a vital role in shaping attitudes, opinions and behaviours among their followers for the judicious management and equitable use of natural resources and for the sustainable development of all. Furthermore, they also have a moral duty, as stated in the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, to spread “the values of peace, justice, goodness, beauty, human fraternity and coexistence.”
The ecological crisis is ultimately linked to a crisis of values, to a spiritual void that pervades the society of our time, and interreligious dialogue is fundamental to resolving it. Thus, there is a need to offer alternative models based on spiritual values and paths.
The interconnectedness and interdependence of human beings and nature invite everyone to go beyond the differences of class, creed, race or culture, to work together to protect the health of the human family’s home, now and for future generations. Religion can help us take a first step towards collective change.
Many religious people today share the idea that the environmental crisis is caused by human beings and therefore strive to offer alternative models of life based on their own spiritual paths. Here I would like to quote a hadith according to which Muhammad said: “If the Final Hour comes while you have a sprout of a plant in your hands and it is possible to plant it before the Hour arrives, you should plant it” (Anas Ibn Malik). It follows that, until the end of our days, we human beings are invited to take care of the environment around us, fostering life.
Concern for environmental degradation is an interreligious reality: religions possess the wisdom that can help bring about those changes in our lifestyles necessary to overcome the deterioration of the planet’s conditions, and which embrace all areas of concern: environmental, economic, social, cultural and that of everyday life. Allow me to share a few points for reflection that, in my opinion, the environmental challenge poses to interreligious dialogue:
1. Go beyond our own borders. There is an urgent need for followers of all religions to unite in building an ecologically responsible social order based on shared values. The Covid-19 pandemic is a clear example of this. The acceleration of global environmental problems has increased the urgency of interfaith cooperation.
2. Tackle environmental problems, considering that “universal solidarity” is necessary to unite the human family in the search for integral and sustainable development.
3. Take care of the health and sustainability of the planet with shared educational programs to raise ecological consciousness and promote common initiatives through the full involvement of the faithful of different religions, who live and work side by side.
4. Recover the awareness of the link between humanity and nature, also through the sacred texts of the various religions, to translate it into daily life.
5. Promote common commitment with the faithful of other religions and a change in attitudes and lifestyles, through the recovery of those religious values that create a new environmental awareness.
The challenges of the 21st century, including the environmental one, are an opportunity and a gift to increase relations between believers and to adopt a new way of life based on fraternal love, equality, justice, harmony and peace.
In the situation of uncertainty, fear and emptiness in which we are immersed, we must go back to the roots of our own faith. We must return to the essential so that ours is a true spiritual ‘renewal’ that can lead to a culture of encounter capable of going beyond differences and divisions and of having a profound impact on the life of this world.
Awareness of our common humanity, our common destiny and the responsibility we share towards others and the world must spur us on to continue developing that necessary interreligious solidarity for the well-being of the human family, so that together we can collaborate generously, as Pope Francis wrote in his Encyclical Laudato si’: “as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents” (LS 14).