Cardinal Sandri on interfaith work in schools: education for peaceful coexistence

2014-03-18 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Pontifical Congregation for Eastern Churches, has applauded a Rome initiative reexamining the so-called Amman Message on the tenth anniversary of its publication. The Message was issued by Jordan’s King Abdullah II in November 2004 as an exhortation for tolerance and unity within the Islamic world and dialogue with Christians.

Speaking Tuesday at Rome’s City Hall during a Day of Study on the Amman Message, Cardinal Sandri said he “appreciates the desire that the Message becomes better known and valued.”

The Study Day was sponsored by the Rome Municipality, the British Council, and the Ducci Foundation. Muslim and Christian leaders, representatives of political, cultural and educational institutions and the media are taking part in the day-long event to examine the theme of "the role of press and media in interfaith dialogue."

Cardinal Sandri, whose dicastery is responsible for Catholic Eastern rite Churches, spoke as part of a panel discussion on media engagement around interfaith work in schools. He admitted that everyone today feels “wounded” by situations or people who display, sometimes in a “violent” way, “their aversion to our respective faiths.” Cardinal Sandri also noted that in this fast-paced world of social networks, the media, through “disinformation, or worse, bad information” can sow discord among communities.

Similar antagonisms, he said, can be found in each of our own communities, in people who fail to live up to the values and ethics of the faith they profess. And here, the Cardinal gave Rwanda as an illustration of the tragic and senseless genocide in which Christians brutally killed their Christian brethren.

Citing the Amman Message which expresses concern about the danger posed to Islam by those who profess to be Muslim but “commit terrible acts in its name,” Cardinal Sandri pointed to the “unspeakable suffering and cruelty in Syria, in other zones in the Middle East or in Nigeria.”

But there are glimmers of hope, he said, in a suffering region. And here, he pointed to his own 2012 visit to Iraq where Sunni and Shiite Imams came together to demonstrate their solidarity with the Christian community suffering under a devastating series of attacks. He also pointed to stories of tolerance among Syrian refugees and families of different Islamic confessions living side by side in Lebanon but who, back in Syria, might be at war with each other.

Cardinal Sandri also spoke of the positive contributions towards peace and coexistence of the many educational institutions and training programs offered by the Catholic Church in Rome and in the region which are open to all, indiscriminately of their faith, and which “incarnate and sustain Islamic-Christian dialogue.” The “constant, competent and generous” work of such institutions can only be a sign of hope for the region, he said. And he expressed his own hope that “such virtuous examples” will multiply so that “peaceful and constructive coexistence is possible.”