Sharing the path towards peace - Andrea Riccardi
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The signs of hope: peace

Andrea Riccardi

The North American scholar Samuel Huntington has for awhile advanced the thesis of the clash between civilizations, which has caused much discussion. Is the clash inevitable? The question remains open in front of alarming developments in some areas of the world. What will be the future relationships between the West and the Islamic world? How is Orthodox Europe living the strengthening of the European Union? Many questions are born from the role of China in Asia and on the world scene. But, before abandoning ourselves to alarmist forecasts, we must take into examination the analysis of the contemporary world made by Huntington. In fact, after the end of the two empires of East and West, the world is restructuring itself: the relationship of culture and civilization - is the thesis by this author - are searching for new blocks: there is a western civilization, a Latino-American, African, Islamic, Sino, Hindu, Orthodox, Buddhist, Japanese. We can at length discuss the individualization of these civilizations, but it is a reality that the planet is organizing itself in worlds, often divided and juxtaposed, often estranged. The Church has never accepted to be the community of just one civilization and just one world. It is clearly seen by the presence of small Christian communities in far worlds from those where Christians are the majority. Its presence travels through the North and South, the East and the West. It does not feel foreign to any world and works to dispel and division. Oscar Cullman spoke of «universalism» as one of the principal charisma of the Catholic Church. Her life is made up of the many divisions and concrete problems of many different countries, often lived in the firmness of daily life, through multiply experiences. We often here this in the words of John Paul II, as written in his Message for the World Day of Peace in 1998, where there is the echo of the problems of many countries. The Church, in its faith and in its concrete life, expresses the hidden yearning of many different people of living together as a family of nations, despite the borders of the different civilizations. Likewise, the Holy Year will express and highlight this «familiarity» between people.

The sharing of the destiny of different people is the style with which the Church is presented in nations. It is sharing, above all, of difficult situations of the poor: «a distinctive sign of the Christian, today, more than ever, must be the love of the poor, of the weak, of the suffering», writes the Pope. The love of the poor refers not only to those who are close by, but also those who are far away. Today, in fact, Christians see the great poverty of the world in real time. A result of the global village is that we encounter the pain, the wars, the evil, diffused throughout the world, which happens independently from the direct contact which we can have. From this, often is born the acceptance of suffering which we see but cannot touch: a kind of dangerous indifference. The parable of the good Samaritan («I saw...- says the evangelical text - referring to the man who is almost dead») questions us on our responsibility towards the poor who are on the other side of our boarders or belong to worlds which do not have much in common with ours.

The proposition of John Paul II, in his Message for the World Day of Peace, speaks precisely of this sense of responsibility even towards the far away misery: «We see today, on the part of both Christians and followers of other religions and of the many men and women of good will, the call to a kind of simple life as a condition so that the equal sharing of the fruits of the creation of God can become a reality». A kind of simple and responsible life can face up to the needs of far away worlds were there is suffering. The Pope takes on, and makes his own, the cry of pain of many, but he reacts also to the silence which surrounds the suffering of entire parts of the world: «Those who live in misery cannot expect more: they have needs now and therefore the right to immediately receive that which is necessary».

The walls, which divide the worlds and the civilizations often hide levels of life which are extremely desperate. Inside some worlds, there lives side by side, in a very explicit way, misery and richness. The love of the poor, says the Pope, requires «a total overturning of those values which induce the search for goods solely for oneself: power, pleasure, getting rich without scruples». A change of the style of life and of the use of goods is asked of Christians who live with the knowledge of a common home, that of the world. The Pope adds: «...the disciples of Christ are called to this radical conversion»

In a world which knows new divisions, but no less radical than those of yesterday, Christians humbly represent a community which is a witness of familiarity between people and friendship with the poor. From the Christian conscience there grows the proposal to all men of good will, so that the share more the good of the earth, but at the same time they adopt a style of life which is responsible and which recognizes that part of their brothers are sharing in poverty. The Pope's appeal proposes a culture of sharing. The Christians of the Third Millennium are in fact, called from the same dimensions of the world to live in universal horizons.