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Call for peace

On the 27th of October 1986 representatives of 13 different religions gathered at John Paul II’s invitation in Assisi, St Francis’ hometown, united by a common goal: prayer for freedom.

Sounds of war had faded
At the end of the meeting in 1986, Pope John Paul II addressed the audience with these words:

The Pope announced the World Day of Prayer for Peace in January 1986. It was at this time that several armed conflicts were taking place, the Cold War had yet to come to an end and the threat of a nuclear conflict was more real than ever. Later that year, in April, the explosion at Chernobyl power plant caused many deaths and an ecological disaster.
The prayer for peace was scheduled for 27th October. The Pope emphasised that the prayers wouldn’t be simultaneous to avoid accusations of religious syncretism. The invitation reached 47 delegations of 13 religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, along with others. John Paul II said that this time was dedicated for prayer, silence, pilgrimage and fast. Representatives of different religions prayed in one spot one after another, in accordance with their beliefs. They also were designated separate places for prayer. The Pope led the meeting of Christians of different churches in the basilica of St Rufinus. Also, he encouraged engaging in “looking for full unity and overcoming the differences that still exist between us”.
The event had a global reach. In many places a truce was called for the event’s duration.


Peace binds us together

It is, in fact, my faith conviction which has made me turn to you, representatives of the Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities and World Religions, in deep love and respect.
With the other Christians we share many convictions and, particularly, in what concerns peace.
With the World Religions we share a common respect of and obedience to conscience, which teaches all of us to seek the truth, to love and serve all individuals and people, and therefore to make peace among nations.(...)

 For the first time in history, we have come together from every where, Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities, and World Religions, in this sacred place dedicated to Saint Francis, to witness before the world, each according to his own conviction, about the transcendent quality of peace.
The form and content of our prayers are very different, as we have seen, and there can be no question of reducing them to a kind of common denominator.
Yes, in this very difference we have perhaps discovered anew that, regarding the problem of peace and its relation to religious commitment, there is something which binds us together.
The challenge of peace, as it is presently posed to every human conscience, is the problem of a reasonable quality of life for all, the problem of survival for humanity, the problem of life and death.

Next "Assisis"
The Pope would go on to announce similar events four times over. The second interreligious meeting in Assisi took place in 2002, as an answer to the September 11th terrorist attacks.
The "Spirit of Assisi" has found many followers, among whom it is worth mentioning the Roman Community Sant'Egidio. The fruit of the 1986 meeting is the International Meeting of Prayer for Peace, organised by this community (from 1987 to the present day) every year in a different city, bringing together representatives of different religions.

25 years after the first such meeting, the Pope at the time, Benedict the XVI organised the Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice “Pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace”. The event gathered representatives of 12 religions.
Assisi, the hometown of St Francis was also chosen by the current Pope Francis for the signing of his encyclical about fraternity and social friendship - “Fratelli Tutti”. This event took place on 3rd October 2020.