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What if…and No One Cared?

The following article was found posted on another blog. The original can be found on the site for the Witherspoon Society, a Presbyterian organization revolving around social consciousness and transformative action.

Admittedly, the following article is old, but its significance remains. “What if…and no one cared?” indeed.

(Following the article is the actual decalogue, as posted by the Witherspoon Society.)


A new “decalogue” for peace [4-18-02]
By David Waters

What if leaders of the world’s major religions got together one day and denounced all religious violence? What if they unanimously agreed to make this plain, clear and bold statement to the world? “Violence and terrorism are opposed to all true religious spirit and we condemn all recourse to violence and war in the name of God or religion.” It could change the world. It could save the planet.
At the very least, it would be big news, wouldn’t it? Apparently not.

More than 200 leaders of the world’s dozen major religions did get together Jan. 24 in Assisi, Italy. Maybe you missed the story about it the next day. Most newspapers didn’t carry it. And it was hidden inside many of those that did. There was a lot of other news that day. The Enron hearings opened in Washington. John Walker Lindh made his first court appearance.

It’s no wonder the largest meeting of world religious leaders in history couldn’t even make the front page. Pope John Paul II and a number of cardinals were at the meeting. So was Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of all Orthodox Christians. So were a dozen Jewish rabbis, including some from Israel. So were 30 Muslim imams from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan. So were dozens of ministers representing Baptists, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Disciples of Christ, Mennonites, Quakers, Moravians, The Salvation Army and the World Council of Churches.

So were dozens of monks, gurus and others representing Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Zoroastrians and native African religions. They ignored the personal and political risk of attending such a high-profile gathering.

They convened and talked and prayed. They unanimously agreed to condemn “every recourse to violence and war in the name of God or religion.” They also said, “No religious goal can possibly justify the use of violence by man against man.” And that “Whoever uses religion to foment violence contradicts religion’s deepest and truest inspiration.” They called their statement the Assisi Decalogue for Peace. It consists of 10 mutual commitments to work for peace and justice in the world, including this one:

“We commit ourselves to stand at the side of those who suffer poverty and abandonment, speaking out for those who have no voice, and to working effectively to change these situations.” On March 4, the Pope sent a copy of the Decalogue to all of the world’s heads of state.

Maybe you missed the story. It didn’t even make the newspapers the next day, hidden inside or not. There was a lot of other news that day.

Seven American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. Israeli troops killed 17 people in the West Bank. Mike Tyson got a license to box.

What if leaders of the world’s major religions got together one and denounced all religious violence–and no one cared?

The author: David Waters is a columnist who writes about religion for the Memphis, Tennessee Commercial Appeal and appears in syndication.)


Decalogue of Assisi for Peace

1. We commit ourselves to proclaiming our firm conviction that violence and terrorism are incompatible with the authentic spirit of religion, and, as we condemn every recourse to violence and war in the name of God or of religion, we commit ourselves to doing everything possible to eliminate the root causes of terrorism.

2. We commit ourselves to educating people to mutual respect and esteem, in order to help bring about a peaceful and fraternal coexistence between people of different ethnic groups, cultures and religions.

3. We commit ourselves to fostering the culture of dialogue, so that there will be an increase of understanding and mutual trust between individuals and among peoples, for these are the premise of authentic peace.

4. We commit ourselves to defending the right of everyone to live a decent life in accordance with their own cultural identity, and to form freely a family of his own.

5. We commit ourselves to frank and patient dialogue, refusing to consider our differences as an insurmountable barrier, but recognizing instead that to encounter the diversity of others can become an opportunity for greater reciprocal understanding.

6. We commit ourselves to forgiving one another for past and present errors and prejudices, and to supporting one another in a common effort both to overcome selfishness and arrogance, hatred and violence, and to learn from the past that peace without justice is no true peace.

7. We commit ourselves to taking the side of the poor and the helpless, to speaking out for those who have no voice and to working effectively to change these situations, out of the conviction that no one can be happy alone.

8. We commit ourselves to taking up the cry of those who refuse to be resigned to violence and evil, and we are desire to make every effort possible to offer the men and women of our time real hope for justice and peace.

9. We commit ourselves to encouraging all efforts to promote friendship between peoples, for we are convinced that, in the absence of solidarity and understanding between peoples, technological progress exposes the world to a growing risk of destruction and death.

10. We commit ourselves to urging leaders of nations to make every effort to create and consolidate, on the national and international levels, a world of solidarity and peace based on justice.