The Holy See
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'Id al-Fitr 1424 A.H . / 2003 A.D.


Constructing Peace Today


Dear Muslim Friends,

1. The time of Ramadan comes round again, and it is my pleasure to greet you on this occasion and to offer you my very best wishes. During this special month the communal meal, iftâr, which breaks the fast at the end of the day, brings family members and friends together in an atmosphere of joy. Quite often people of other religions are invited to share in this moment of conviviality, and there is a growing custom of Christians organizing an iftâr for their Muslim friends. Such signs of friendship are appreciable, especially at this time when there is so much unrest and tension in the world. It is in this spirit of fraternity that I extend my greetings and those of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue to all Muslims throughout the world, in particular on the occasion of ‘Id al-Fitr, the Feast which concludes the month of Ramadan.

2. As has become customary with this annual message, I should like to share with you some reflections, and it would seem appropriate to centre these on the need to construct peace. My starting point is a letter which Pope John XXIII addressed to all people of good will forty years ago, in 1963. In this letter, entitled Pacem in Terris, Peace on Earth, it was suggested that peace is an edifice resting on four pillars: Truth, Justice, Love and Freedom. Each of these values has to be present if there are to be good and harmonious relations between peoples and between nations.

3. Truth is the first pillar, for it includes the recognition that human beings are not their own masters, but are called to fulfil the will of God, the Creator of all, who is the Absolute Truth. In human relations truth implies sincerity, essential to mutual confidence and fruitful dialogue leading to peace. Truth moreover brings each individual to acknowledge his or her own rights, but also to recognize his or her own duties towards others.

4. Yet peace cannot exist without justice, respect for the dignity and rights of each human person. It is the lack of justice, in individual, social and international relations, that causes so much unrest in our world today, and brings about violence.

5. Justice must nevertheless be tempered by love. This implies the ability to recognize that we all belong to one human family, and so to see our fellow human beings as our brothers and sisters. It gives the capacity to share in both sorrows and joys. It makes people feel the needs of others as if they were oneÂ’s own, and this empathy leads them to share their own gifts with others, not only material goods but also the values of mind and spirit. Love also makes allowances for weakness, and so includes the ability to forgive. This forgiveness is essential to the restoration of peace when conflict has broken out, for it opens up the possibility of beginning again, on a new basis, in a restored relationship.

6. All this supposes freedom, an essential characteristic of the human person. For freedom allows people to act according to reason and to assume responsibility for their own actions. Indeed each of us is responsible before God for our contribution to society.

7. To these four pillars I would be inclined to add a fifth, namely prayer. For we know that, as human beings, we are weak. We find it hard to live up to these ideals. We need GodÂ’s help, and this we have to implore humbly. Let me quote here some words of Pope John Paul II:

If peace is GodÂ’s gift and has its source in him, where are we to seek it and how can we build it, if not in a deep and intimate relationship with God? To build the peace of order, justice and freedom requires, therefore, a priority commitment to prayer, which is openness, listening, dialogue and finally union with God, the prime wellspring of true peace.

(Address on the Day of Prayer for Peace, Assisi, 24 January 2002)

The Pope went on to say that prayer is not a form of escapism. On the contrary, it allows us to face up to reality with a strength which comes from God.

8. The month of Ramadan is not only a time of fasting, but also a period of intense prayer. I wish to assure you, my Muslim friends, that we are united with you in prayer to the Almighty and Merciful God. May He bless each one of you and all the members of your families. May this blessing be a source of comfort in particular for those who have suffered, or who are still suffering, on account of armed conflict. May the Good God give all of us the strength to be true constructors of peace.

With best wishes for a Blessed Feast, ‘Id mubârak.

Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald