Speaking on behalf of dozens of religious leaders, Pope Francis called on world leaders to end the violence and bloodshed and fight for peace instead.
“We implore you, in the name of God and for the good of humanity: work for peace, not arms,” the pope said on September 15, the last day of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Nur- Sultan. and the last day of his three-day visit to Kazakhstan.
“Only by serving the cause of peace will you make a name for yourself in the annals of history,” he said.
The pope joined the 80 religious leaders and hundreds of delegates attending the interreligious meeting at the Palace of Independence for the reading of the final declaration of the congress.
The statement, read by Anglican Bishop Jo Bailey Wells of Dorking, England, expressed the leaders’ belief that “extremism, radicalism, terrorism and all other forms of violence and wars, whatever their aims , have nothing to do with true religion and should be rejected in the strongest possible terms.
“We call on world leaders to abandon aggressive and destructive rhetoric that leads to destabilization of the world, and to cease conflict and bloodshed in all corners of our world,” the leaders said. And they called on “religious leaders and eminent political figures from different parts of the world to tirelessly develop dialogue in the name of friendship, solidarity and peaceful coexistence.”
Addressing congress participants, Pope Francis said that after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, a collective response was needed to counter the “incendiary atmosphere” caused by religious extremism that “threatened to turn religion into a field of conflict”. .”
However, “pseudo-religious terrorism, extremism, radicalism and nationalism, dressed in religious garb, nevertheless continue to foment fears and concerns about religion,” he said.
The congressional statement reaffirms that religious extremism, radicalism and terrorism “have nothing to do with the genuine spirit of religion and must be rejected in the most decisive terms possible”, it said .
And, he said, “Since the Almighty created all people equal, regardless of their religious, ethnic or social background, we agree that mutual respect and understanding should be considered essential and indispensable in religious education”.
At the same time, the pope said, governments must not exclude the voice of those who adhere to the religion but must guarantee that the rights of believers, including to speak in public, “must be protected, always and everywhere”. .
For her part, he said, the Catholic Church is committed to “the unity of the human family” and “the way of interreligious dialogue,” which is “necessary and irrevocable.”
“Interreligious dialogue is no longer just something opportune,” the pope said. “It is an urgent and incomparable service rendered to humanity, to the praise and glory of the creator of all.”
The pope also told religious leaders that affirming the declaration that the dignity of women and the improvement of their “social status as equal members of the family and of society” are crucial to achieving peace. .
“Women must also be given more prominent positions and responsibilities,” he said. “How many calamitous decisions could have been avoided if the woman had been directly involved in the decision-making! We are committed to ensuring that women are always more respected, recognized and involved!
The voices of young people, who too often fall prey to extremism, must also be heard, Pope Francis said. They must be given “educational opportunities, not weapons of destruction. And let’s listen to them, without being afraid of being challenged by their questions. Above all, let’s build a world with them in mind!
“Let us go forward on this path, walking together on earth as children of heaven, weavers of hope and artisans of harmony, heralds of peace and unity,” he said. before heading to the airport for his flight back to Rome.