Awali (Agenzia Fides) - The times we are living in, East and West resemble «two opposing seas», which spread conflicts throughout the world to assert their hegemony.
In this scenario dominated by dark omens, religious men and above all the leaders of the various faith communities can attract the «blessing of the Most High» on the world only if they intend to «set sail on the same waters, choosing the route of encounter rather than that of confrontation». This is the appeal launched by Pope Francis in his speech in Awali at the end of the Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: “East and West for Human Coexistence”, on the morning of the second day of his apostolic journey to the Kingdom of Bahrain. In the concluding session of the forum for dialogue, hosted at the Sakhir Royal Palace and organized under the patronage of His Majesty the King of Bahrain, Hamad Bin Isa al Khalifa, the Pope's speech was preceded by those of the Sovereign himself and Sheikh Ahmed al Tayyeb, Grand Imam by Al-Azhar.
In the first part of his speech, the Pontiff drew a realistic picture of the global evils and threats that mark the present time. After «two terrible world wars» and «a cold war that for decades kept the world in suspense», humanity seems to be experiencing a new tragic paradox: while «the majority of the world’s population is united in facing the same difficulties, suffering from grave food, ecological and pandemic crises, as well as an increasingly scandalous global injustice», a few potentates are caught up in «a resolute struggle for partisan interests, reviving obsolete rhetoric, redesigning spheres of influence and opposing blocs». A «dramatic and childlike» scenario, in which «in the garden of humanity», people play with fire, «with missiles and bombs, with weapons that bring sorrow and death».
Faced with the «world war in pieces» scenarios looming over the world, the possible ways out were outlined by Pope Francis using extensive quotations from the "Charter of Bahrain and above all from the Document on Human Fraternity signed by the Pope himself and by the Great Imam al Tayyeb in Abu Dhabi on February 4, 2019. The Document, calls for a «fruitful encounter between West and East, to help cure their respective maladies», while the Bishop of Rome in his speech at the forum feared that the new conflicts on the east-west axis may also distract attention «from another divergence that is constantly and dramatically increasing: the gap between the North and the South of the world».
Pope Francis dwelt above all on the responsibilities of religious leaders, called to «encourage and assist our human family, interdependent yet at the same time disconnected». A responsibility that the Bishop of Rome proposed three challenges: «prayer», «education» and «action».
Those who pray - the Pope said in reference to the prayer - also help «their fellow men not to fall prey to a paganism that reduces human beings to what they sell, buy or are entertained by». The followers of the religions are men and women of peace who, «as they journey alongside others on this earth, invite them, with gentleness and respect, to lift their gaze to Heaven». For this reason too - the Pope remarked - it is «essential» to guarantee religious freedom. Quoting the Kingdom of Bahrain Declaration, the Pontiff remarked that «God instructs us to exercise the divine gift of freedom of choice». Regarding the urgency of promoting education, the Bishop of Rome acknowledged that «where opportunities for education are lacking, extremism increases and forms of fundamentalism take root», while the acquisition of a critical spirit through adequate educational paths helps to «enter into the heart of problems without claiming to have easy answers to resolve complex issues». Among the educational urgencies, the Pope recalled first of all the «recognition of women in the public sphere», together with the protection of the fundamental rights of children and the promotion of an authentic «education for citizenship» to overcome also «the discriminatory use of the term minorities which engenders feelings of isolation and inferiority» and «paves the way for hostility and discord». Then dwelling on the urgency of the common action of believers and religious leaders, the Pontiff repeated that it is not enough to abstractly affirm the "peaceful" nature of religions. Religious men and women, as people of peace, are «likewise opposed to the race to rearmament, to the commerce of war, to the market of death». He does not support «alliances against some», but means of encounter with all: Without yielding to forms of relativism or syncretism of any sort, he pursues a single path, which is that of fraternity, dialogue and peace». And the Creator «invites us to act, especially on behalf all those many creatures of his who do not yet find a sufficient place on the agenda of the powerful: the poor, the unborn, the elderly, the infirm, migrants». (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 4/11/2022)