In a message sent to inter-religious faith leaders attending a conference on peace, Pope Francis proposed that there are always alternatives to war and urged participants to seek avenues of dialogue. “War is never a necessity, nor is it inevitable. Another way can always be found: the way of dialogue, encounter and the sincere search for truth,” Pope Francis said in his Sept. 7 message to conference attendees. Organized by the Italian Sant'Egidio community, the Sept. 7-9 International Peace Meeting is being held in Antwerp, Belgium in commemoration of the centenary of the start of the First World War. Antwerp the capital of the Antwerp province of Belgium. With a population of 510,610, it is the second largest city in Belgium, after the capital Brussels. Leaders and representatives from various Christian churches and interfaith communities have assembled for the meeting, which is reflecting on the theme “Peace is the Future.” In his letter, Pope Francis explained that the many current conflicts surrounding the anniversary of the First World War can teach us that “war is never a satisfactory means of redressing injustice and achieving balanced solutions to political and social discord.” “All war is ultimately, as Pope Benedict XV stated in 1917, a 'senseless slaughter,'” the Pope said. “War drags peoples into a spiral of violence which then proves difficult to control; it tears down what generations have labored to build up and it sets the scene for even greater injustices and conflicts.” The pontiff observed how both declared and undeclared wars can destroy the future of the youth and the elderly, poison longstanding relationships of coexistence between differing religious and ethnic groups, and well as lead to a diaspora of families and entire communities. In the face of these consequences, many of which are currently happening today, the Pope explained that “together with men and women of good will everywhere, we cannot remain passive in the face of so much suffering, so many ‘senseless slaughters.’” “Here our various religious traditions can, in ‘the spirit of Assisi,’ make a specific contribution to peace,” he said, affirming that “We can do this through the power of prayer” because of the profound unity of prayer and dialogue. “It is my hope that these days of prayer and dialogue will serve as a powerful reminder that the pursuit of peace and understanding through prayer can forge lasting bonds of unity and prevail over the passions of war.” The Bishop of Rome went on saying that the time has arrived for “religious leaders to cooperate more effectively in the work of healing wounds, resolving conflicts and pursuing peace.” Peace is a sign of one’s commitment to God, he said, noting that every religious leader has a call to be a man or woman of peace because of their ability to foster encounter when other options fail. “We must be peacemakers, and our communities must be schools of respect and dialogue with those of other ethnic or religious groups, places where we learn to overcome tensions, foster just and peaceful relations between peoples and social groups, and build a better future for coming generations.” Sant’Egidio, the organization in charge of arranging the event, is an ecclesial movement based in Italy. Focusing their apostolate on outcast groups, the community gives particular attention to the poor, the youth and the elderly, the homeless, prisoners, the disabled and impoverished countries.
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