"My Muslim Friends"
I am certain that I echo your own thoughts when I bring up as one of our concerns the spread of terrorism. Terrorist activity is continually recurring in various parts of the world, sowing death and destruction, and plunging many of our brothers and sisters into grief and despair. Those who instigate and plan these attacks eviently wish to poison our relations, making use of all means, including religion, to oppose every attempt to build a peaceful, fair and serene life together. Terrorism of any kind is a perverse and cruel decision which shows contempt for the sacred right to life and undermines the very foundations of all civil society. If together we can succeed in eliminating from hearts any trace of rancour, in resisting every form of intolerance and in opposing every manifestation of violence, we will turn back the wave of cruel fanaticism that endangers the lives of so many people and hinders progress towards world peace. The task is difficult but not impossible. The believer knows that, despite his weakness, he can count on the spiritual power of prayer.Assimilation, social justice and an attack on fundamentalism.... Just as expected. And he closed with an appeal to common mission:
Past experience teaches us that relations between Christians and Muslims have not always been marked by mutual respect and understanding. How many pages of history record battles and even wars that have been waged, with both sides invoking the name of God, as if fighting and killing the enemy could be pleasing to him. The recollection of these sad events should fill us with shame, for we know only too well what atrocities have been committed in the name of religion. The lessons of the past must help us to avoid repeating the same mistakes. We must seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other’s identity. The defence of religious freedom, in this sense, is a permanent imperative and respect for minorities is a clear sign of true civilization.
You, my esteemed friends, represent some Muslim communities from this country where I was born, where I studied and where I lived for a good part of my life. That is why I wanted to meet you. You guide Muslim believers and train them in the Islamic faith. Teaching is the vehicle through which ideas and convictions are transmitted. Words are highly influential in the education of the mind. You, therefore, have a great responsibility for the formation of the younger generation. As Christians and Muslims, we must face together the many challenges of our time. There is no room for apathy and disengagement, and even less for partiality and sectarianism. We must not yield to fear or pessimism. Rather, we must cultivate optimism and hope. Interreligious and intercultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is in fact a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends. Young people from many parts of the world are here in Cologne as living witnesses of solidarity, brotherhood and love. They are the first fruits of a new dawn for humanity.Speaking of the love and importance of teaching, the vigil begins in 20 minutes.
PHOTO: REUTERS/KNA/Wolfgang Radtke