Events in New York, San Francisco capture interfaith spirit of Assisi

GARRISON, N.Y. (CNS) — Peace begins with the individual, and each person is called to be a peacemaker. That was one of the main messages conveyed by panelists at the interfaith Spirit of Assisi Gathering, sponsored Oct. 27 by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement at Graymoor in Garrison. The event was one of many worldwide marking the 25th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace convened by Pope John Paul II in Assisi Oct. 27, 1986. Panelists agreed that religion has an important role to play in fostering peace by bringing people together and helping them to see their unity as brothers and sisters, and children of the one God. “How Interreligious Cooperation Can Impact World Peace” was the event’s theme. “There can be no peace in the world without peace between religions,” said the moderator, Atonement Father Elias Mallon, in his opening remarks. A similar event, “Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace,” took place at Holy Name of Jesus Church in Manhattan, which is administered by the Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province. Participating clergy included representatives of the Lutheran, Presbyterian and Episcopal churches as well as Judaism and Islam. At Graymoor, each panelist spoke about peace, interreligious relations and the unity of people from his own faith perspective. Catholic Archbishop Donald Reece, retired archbishop of Kingston, Jamaica, said that “self-introspection and self-criticism are essential” in interfaith dialogue and “the achievement of the common good.” He spoke of the meeting that St. Francis had with Sultan Malik al-Kamil of Egypt in 1219, during the Crusades. Despite the dangers involved, Francis was able to meet with him “because he did not consider the sultan an enemy; he considered him a brother,” the archbishop said. Also on the panel was the Rev. Douglas Hostetter, director of the Mennonite Central Committee’s U.N. office. Mennonites, he said, “take seriously the biblical understanding that all people are created in the image of God.” He noted that for 500 years, Mennonites have refused to fight in wars or to “take another life in the name of the state.”

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