By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is an essential part of peacemaking and promoting disarmament because it helps religious communities focus on the sacredness of human life, the obligation of compassion and the yearning for peace, said speakers at a Vatican-sponsored webinar.
“Pope Francis has noted on several occasions that the arms race is based on a culture of fear and suspicion, and the antidote to armament, in fact, is a culture of dialogue that fosters mutual trust among individuals and groups and prompts the common good,” said Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Ela Gandhi, the granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, told participants in the webinar March 23 that everyone must make a commitment “to the true practice of our faiths; through this we can build a culture of compassion, love and responsibility toward others, toward animals and toward our environment.”
“If we achieve this,” she said, “there will be no place for greed, hatred, anger and armaments; there will be a place for peaceful negotiations, there will be a place for caring and sharing, and there will be a place for love and cherishing.”
The webinar, “Advancing Integral Disarmament in Times of Pandemic,” was hosted by the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development in collaboration with the SCRAP Weapons campaign of the SOAS University of London. It included discussion of the state of nuclear and conventional weapons’ stockpiling and political and practical efforts to promote peacemaking and disarmament.
Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Armenian Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Shinto, Buddhist and Zoroastrian leaders also spoke about the role of religions in promoting peace.
Mohammad Sammak, secretary-general of Lebanon’s National Committee for Christian-Muslim Dialogue, told the conference that dialogue is essential since “the only alternative to coexistence is co-destruction.”
Rabbi Jehoschua Ahrens, the Central Europe director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, said every religion “has the goal of peace, prosperity and security for all mankind” and espouses some form of the golden rule: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
If lived authentically, he said, “religion is not the source of conflict, as often perceived, but the solution.”
The U.S.-facilitated “Abraham Accords,” a joint statement normalizing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, the rabbi said, demonstrate how interreligious dialogue can contribute to a political peace that many people thought impossible.
The Rev. Jong Chun Park, a South Korean pastor and president of the World Methodist Council, told the webinar that “in the midst of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, we are facing the ominous symptoms of the rise of a new Cold War,” one that focuses more on stopping North Korea from further developing its nuclear arsenal than on disarming the entire Korean peninsula.
Referencing Deuteronomy 30:19, the pastor said, “We are still standing at the crossroads between choosing the God of life or choosing the nuclear idol of death.”