“We are living a difficult time for the world. We must come together – I would say, with one heart and one voice – to shout that peace has no borders. A cry that rises from our hearts. Indeed, it is in hearts that the borders that divide and put us against each other must be torn down; it is in hearts that the feelings of peace and brotherhood must be sown.” Pope Francis’ “cry” reverberated yesterday in Madrid, and opened the International Meeting “Peace without Borders”, promoted by the Community of Sant’Egidio in cooperation with the Archdiocese of Madrid. More than 300 leaders of the world’s great religions, along with representatives of the cultural world and institutions, are currently gathered in Madrid in the “spirit of Assisi” for a two-day meeting and dialogue on the themes of peace, the environment and the poor. They were welcomed at the Palacio Municipal de Congreso by Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra, Archbishop of Madrid and by the Minister of the Spanish Government Margarita Robles. The President of the Central African Republic, Faustin Archange Touadera, the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, Meir Lau, Metropolitan Hilarion of the Moscow Patriarchate, and Mohammad Al-Mahrasawi, Chancellor of the Al Azhar University (Egypt) took the floor at the opening ceremony.
“If one seeks the good of peoples and the world, it is foolish to close spaces, to separate peoples, or, worse still, to fight against each other, to deny hospitality to those in need”, the Pope said in his message.
“The common home cannot sustain walls that separate nor walls that put its dwellers against each other. It needs open doors that foster communication, encounter and cooperation, in order to live together in peace, respecting diversity and creating bonds of responsibility. Peace is like a house with many dwellings that we are all called to live in. Peace has no borders.”
The meeting in Madrid is taking place at a time when Europe is grappling with a challenging migratory crisis. Closed ports, seized ships, and denied access. “The problem is not the existence of borders but the ways in which we can live out borders in a large – and sometimes terrible – world”, remarked Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio.
“Hostile or hate-filled borders often tear the world apart, creating an insidious climate of conflict”, Riccardi said.
Thiry years since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, what is most worrying – Riccardi pointed out- is “the resurgence of antagonistic or nationalist nationalistic visions, simplified reactions to a globalization seen as threatening. It is a simplification understood as protecting against complex problems. I will not give in to scaremongering”, he said. “But today’s complex challenges cannot be tackled without global humanism”. He concluded: “Boundaries exist, but they cannot become walls or shape our future. The faith community overcomes them with the gaze of the heart and with the word of dialogue”.
The incident of the Ocean Viking rescue ship stranded in Italy’s southern Mediterranean sea was finally resolved on the eve of the meeting in Madrid. The Italian government allowed the ship to disembark 82 migrants on the island of Lampedusa while the remaining migrants on board will be relocated to Germany, France, Portugal and Luxembourg following the proposal of the European Commission. “I hope – said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) from Madrid – “that this smooth negotiation process will pave the way for a predictable landings mechanism. I am saying this for the sake of those aboard the vessels of hope.” “We should stop wasting time debating who should shoulder responsibility for whom and move on to the more serious issues, to the emergencies underlying the migration phenomenon,” he said. Grandi brought to Madrid the “cry” of 71 million people forced to flee their homeland: refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons. They flee wars and poverty, and
“the response we give to the migration phenomenon today is the yardstick of a healthy society, one that has the capacity to be inclusive”,Grandi said, adding: “putting a negative stigma to refugees, besides being morally wrong, does not help us to solve the problem”.