Eternal Father, I offer You everything I do this day: my work, my prayers, my apostolic efforts, my time with family and friends, my hours of relaxation, my difficulties, problems, distress, which I shall try to bear with patience. Join these, my gifts, to the unique offering which Jesus Christ, Your Son, renews today in the Eucharist.
We pray for the Church throughout the world and for the Pope’s intentions this month.
Peace - That those from diverse religious traditions and all people of good will may work together for peace.
Consecrated Life - That in this year dedicated to consecrated life, religious men and women may rediscover the joy of following Christ and strive to serve the poor with zeal.
Pope Francis is certainly giving a lead here, living out his own intention by reaching out to non-Catholic and non-Christian traditions. He is on record as having asked a blessing from Pentecostals. On his visit to Turkey last year, he asked Patriarch Bartholomew to pray for him. One of his closest friends is a rabbi.
Such contacts with the religious ‘other’ do not always go down well with everyone. It’s hardly surprising that people under persecution might be a little sceptical. A recent Southern Cross headline reported that Kenya’s Christians were ‘living in fear’ of being targeted for summary execution just because they are non-Muslims. As extremists move well beyond the lunatic fringe, the possibility of any form of reconciliation, let alone positive dialogue, must seem utterly remote. And if one’s life and the lives of one’s family are threatened, options for action are instinctively narrowed to fight or flight – ‘the centre cannot hold…’
Of course this is just what the men of terror want. They desire to drive a wedge between the faiths. The last thing Boko Haram in Nigeria or Christian militias in the Central African Republic want is a spirit of tolerance and respect between Muslims and non-Muslims. They need the ‘other’ to be a mortal enemy who can therefore be eliminated in their unholy wars. This leads to the classic unbreakable cycle of violence made that more horrible by being sacredly sanctioned.
Hence, the importance of the patient and long term work of dialogue. The more we are rent asunder by religiously inspired violence, the more it is important to reach out to the peacemakers in the other traditions. That we did so, often in practical ways through our institutions such as those caring for refugees, will be remembered and will bear fruit when the time comes for reconstruction.
- Charlie Searson SJ