I was at an international symposium of sisters involved in justice and peace issues. From Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe it was inspiring to hear of the work of the sisters in educating for justice, working for women's rights, having concern for land grabbing, fracking, immigration, poverty etc etc. It made me very proud to be their sister and to be associated with their work. All over the world we have the same concerns about human trafficking, immigration, reconciliation, dialogue, ecology and it was good to feel the support that comes from a common mission. Over and over I come up against wonderful instances of religious people doing such good things in spite of the bad press religion for the most part gets (and I do recognise much of this is deserved but if only the opposite were also known).
My contribution was to speak about Interfaith Issues which pleased me greatly. So often interfaith is seen as an extra, a tiger without teeth as I've heard it described, but it is an integral part of justice and certainly of peace. All over the world religion is implicated in violence. Memories of past conflicts spoil present relations, a sense of superiority of one religion being better than another, of "my" religion having the complete truth which is for everyone and not just for me, of misjudging the motives and practices of others can all contribute to religious conflict which, like all other conflicts, has to end in dialogue. So why not begin with dialogue? In dialogue we are asked to build bridges. This is the wish of Pope Francis who shortly after his election told the world “My wish is that the dialogue between us should help to build bridges connecting all people, in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced.” (March 22nd 2013)
And there are bridges being built all over the world. The work of the World Council of Religions for Peace has made wonderful contributions through national interfaith committees. The Tannenbaum Centre for Reconciliation in the States highlights individuals who are making significant contributions to peace such as Pastor James Wuye and Imam Ashafa from the Kaduna Interfaith Mediation Centre in Nigeria. Smaller contributions such as my own are part of a world wide movement for peace. But there is much work to be done. While here in Namur we heard of the abduction of the Nigerian young women by Boko Haram, of bombs in Abuja, Mombasa, Nairobi. This is the background against which our African sisters work - so different from mine though there are sometimes tensions under the surface in Britain even if they don't actually explode into violence. However, the support and love of my African sisters encouraged me to see that even my small efforts are a contribution to peace and a support to them working as they are in such different situations. They are certainly an inspiration to me and give me the motivation to see my work within a global context and as part of a world wide community working for peace and reconciliation.