Religious liberty and interreligious dialogue: the fourth annual day for the associations of the Holy Land in Rome

Giacomo Pizzi26 October 2011

Starting from the concept of religious freedom, to achieve and maintain peace in the Holy Land by means of interreligious dialogue: this theme, at the center of the fourth annual day for the associations of the Holy Land in Rome held on 22 October, was discussed by numerous representatives from the ecclesiastical world and from voluntary associations actively involved in the Holy Land.

As introduced by Father Michael Anthony Perry, General Vicar of the Order of Friars Minor, religious identity does not prevent recognizing humanity and the divine presence in the other, and the Christian tradition itself teaches, in a perspective of gratuitousness that makes no call on reciprocity, the importance of dialogue for the path of peace. “Peace is a gift of God offered to us in order that we may fulfill our human, Christian and Franciscan identity”, the Father explained in his intervention, which launched a day that was rich in personal testimonials and observations showing how in the Middle East, and in the Holy Land in particular, the concepts of religious liberty and coexistence between peoples belonging to different cultures and religions have taken on forms altogether different from those found in the West. “Where religion and faith permeate public life, as occurs in the Holy Land, it is necessary to alter the approach and to give emphasis, even more than to religious freedom, to respect for religious, ethnic and social minorities”, stated Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land, who also noted that the task of all religious leaders and educators includes that of teaching how to encounter the other in such a manner so as to guarantee respect for minorities. “To engage in dialogue with the other is an integral part of my life of faith”, the Father Custos further declared, “and opening oneself to the other does not at all mean to dilute one’s own faith. Indeed, my own experience in the Holy Land has taught me that my history and my sense of belonging are reinforced through encounters with the other.”

The day’s activities, organized by the Edizioni Terra Santa in collaboration with ATS pro Terra Sancta, concluded with a Mass celebrated by the Father Custos, who offered special thanks to the numerous volunteers who, in a wide variety of manners, have worked together with the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land.