The Holy See
back up


'Id al-Fitr 1423 A.H . / 2002 A.D.

Christians and Muslims and the Ways to Peace


Dear Muslim Friends,

1. It is a pleasure for me to address you on the occasion of 'Id al-Fitr, which concludes the month of Ramadan, in order to offer you friendly greetings on behalf of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and indeed on behalf of the whole Catholic Church.

We are happy to receive an increasing number of replies to our Message and also greetings on the occasion of our own festivities, especially Christmas. We note too with pleasure that in many places, at the local level, contacts between Christians and Muslims are intensifying.

2. You are well aware, dear friends, how acute has become the question of peace in our world today. Situations where war prevails are like an open wound in the heart of humanity, above all those conflicts which have been going on for many years, whether in the Middle East, in Africa or in Asia. In several countries such conflicts result in numerous innocent victims, leading the population to despair of peace returning to their land in the near future.

3. The origin of the causes of conflict is often to be located in hearts which refuse to be open to God. Such hearts are characterised by egoism, by an immoderate desire for power, domination and wealth, at the expense of others and without any attention to the cry of distress of those who hunger and thirst for justice and peace. While the ultimate causes of wars are well known, we need above all to explore together the ways to peace.

4. As believers in the One God we see it as our duty to strive to bring about peace. Christians and Muslims, we believe that peace is above all a gift from God. This is why our two communities pray for peace; it is something they are always called to do. As you know, Pope John Paul II invited representatives of different religions to come to Assisi, the city of St Francis, on 24 January 2002, in order to pray and to commit themselves to peace in the world. Many Muslims, coming from different countries, contributed to the success of this day. All those present were exhorted not to allow the flame of hope, symbolised by the lamp held by each official representative, to be extinguished. Our Council, for its part, is examining the best way to fulfil this commitment.

5. In bringing about peace, and maintaining it, religions have an important role to play, one which in these days more than ever is being recognised by civil society and by Governments. In this respect, education is a domain in which religions can make a particular contribution. We are indeed convinced that the ways of peace include education, for through it one can learn to recognise one's own identity and that of the other. This identity will be clarified without coming into opposition with that of our brothers and sisters, as if humanity could be made up of antagonistic factions. Peace necessarily entails an approach to the human person in truth and justice. Education for peace also involves recognition and acceptance of diversity, just as it includes learning about crisis management, in order to prevent crises from degenerating into conflicts. We are happy to see that in several countries there is increased collaboration in this field among Muslims and Christians, especially as regards the equitable revision of text-books for schools.

6. It is at what is a very special time for you, the month of Ramadan in which fasting, prayer and solidarity bring you interior peace, that I am sharing with you these reflections on the ways to peace. I express to you, therefore, good wishes of peace, peace in your hearts, in your families and in your respective countries, and I invoke upon you the Blessing of the God of Peace.

Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald