Which is the Bridge that unites us and gives Peace to the World?
Bishop Isidore Battikha Archbishop emeritus of Homs, Syria
Bishop of Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela Greek-Melkite Catholic Church
Handling such a deep theme in a few words and within ten minutes is a very difficult task. Thus, in order to be able to do it, I shall imitate our Lord Jesus, who handled big themes in a few words, by speaking to the crowds in paraboles. (Cf. Mt. 13 :34).
Once upon a time, there were two brothers, Francis and Cyril, living in two separate houses, facing each other, surrounded by a most beautiful countryside. Due to small problems, which grew up in time, both brothers stopped speaking to each other and avoided crossing their ways.
One day a carpenter arrived to one of the houses, asking whether there was any job for him. Francis answered:
-Do you see, sir, those wooden boards, close to the rivulet? I cut them recently. My brother Cyril lives in the house on the other side and, due to our rivalry, he diverted the rivulet to separate us for good. This is the reason why I do not want to see his house any longer. I ask you to make a fence for me, a wall which will prevent me from seeing whatever lies on the opposite side.
Francis went away to town and only returned late at night…
What a great surprise he had when he saw, instead of the fence, a pretty bridge that the carpenter had built, to unite both sides of the land.
Unable to say a word, he suddenly saw on the opposite side his brother Cyril crossing the bridge with a big smile.
-Francis, my brother, I cannot believe my eyes! It is you who built this bridge, when it was I who had offended you. I come to apologize to you. What a humility, Francis, what a courage you have! Forgive me, brother, forgive me…
And both brothers embraced each other, forgetting the past to build a future of peace and brotherhood.
When Francis realized that the carpenter was leaving, he told him:
- My good man, how much do I owe you? Why can´t you stay with us to celebrate our reconciliation?
- No, thank you, dear friend, answered the carpenter, I still have many more bridges to be built; it is my mission…
- The two names chosen, ‘Francis’ and ‘Cyril’ are to symbolize the two sisters Churches: Catholic and Orthodox.
- To be a bridge builder is every Christian’s mission.
- The differences between Men are a wealth and not a failure
- What unites Christians is much bigger than what differentiates them.
- The wooden boards used to build the bridge are: humility, forgiveness, truth. All put together will give us a world of peace and serenity.
- So that the world believes in the Cross and the Resurrection of our Lord, let us love each other, and let us forgive offences from each other, so that our Lord also forgives us our offences and gives us Peace. Because those who have no peace inside themselves, cannot give it to the world and to the others.
In a hymn to Peace, with words of Pope Francis, that was made into a song by Odino Faccia, this beautiful melody is expressed like this: “For all to be one / walls don’t exist anymore / but only the value of the encounter / that is the bridge to peace / unity is the path / an alliance always open to love and truth.
Paz – Paix – Peace – Salam – Shalom – Pace – Irene – Mir ……
Sisters and brothers,
We expected peace, and nothing is going well … Who does not want Peace? BUT … How to reach it in a world agitated by numerous and intriguing problems?
Christianity announces Peace with the Prince of Peace (Jesus) (Isa. 9: 6) and continues to announce it in every assembly of the Christian Communities. Islam announces Peace among all the adherents of its religion, with a greeting that has become a worldwide symbol of the Arabic language: Alsalam Alaykoum. The Hebrews put the roots of Peace with a Shalom wellknown by everyone … Shalom, Shalom, Shalom … and so the other religions of the Earth.
Where is the problem for reaching peace?
St. Augustine says: “Pax tranquillitas ordinis” – Peace is the tranquility of order (from Civ. Dei, XIX, 13). Yes, tranquility of order, because order is the right disposition of things according to their end, and the end of every human creature is to return to God, from whom they came … It is a bridge, between God and humanity, a bridge that brings the Word of God to humans, through the channels of transcendence of the Sacred Books, in the different religions, which find their origins in human consciousness, that is always seeking the Creator and discerning between good and evil.
But this bridge with God has to be materialized in the bridges that we have to build among men, even though they have diverse ways to God, a diversity that is a sign of our freedom.
In this world of paradoxes and constant changes, the global society has a certain homogenization, at the same time it becomes evident its enormous diversity in common spaces of coexistence. The efforts, that are carried out around the world, to foster the interreligious dialogue grow as the sense of uniformity and distrust towards difference grow.
The response to identity conflicts is more and more intense through proposals for establishing ties between the different communities of believers. Ties that do not seek to settle the differences or dissolve them in a homogeneous framework where divergences are not respected, but to assume them as part of a more complex work, full of nuances, less marked by an imposed ideology, where the willingness to share the journey and where mutual recognition stand out. They are basic works, day to day, marked by practical principles that do not wish to be lost in impotent debates or in supposed yearnings for domination.
The religious field is sensitive to the outbreak of identity conflicts, true, but it also contains its own antidote: it is the field that most speaks to us about the human condition.
Dialogue or coexistence?
Dialogue in coexistence and respect …
The goal is not to compete, but to know, share, build bridges and witness …
The idea of dialogue is not to confuse identities, nor to do any kind of syncretism, because to build bridges we need to have a solid base on each side, we need “iodines” to balance and strengthen … these “iodines” are humility, mercy, forgiveness, prayer and getting to know each other ….
His Holiness Pope Francis addressing the ambassadors in 2013 says: “Building bridges between religions for Peace”. Dialogue helps build bridges between all men so that each one finds in the other not an enemy, not an adversary or contender, but a brother to be welcomed and embraced. We cannot build bridges between men ignoring God and His mercy, but aslo we cannot live authentic relationships with God ignoring others.
There can be no real peace if each person is the measure of themselves, if each person can always claim only their own right, without caring, at the same time, about the good of others, of all, starting from the nature that human beings of the earth have in common, created equally to the image and likeness of God.