Peace among cultures, understanding between religions: this was the motto chosen for the G20 Interfaith Forum, the platform for interreligious dialogue of the G20, that was held in Bologna from 12 to 14 September. The 2021 edition of the Forum, organized in collaboration with the Italian presidency of the G20, was centered on the need for a “time to heal”. A time to heal from the pandemic, but also from violence and war, something that the recent events in Afghanistan made even more urgent.
As Professor Alberto Melloni, secretary of the Foundation for Religious Sciences, said, the G20 Interfaith Forum added to the three ‘P’ that guide the Italian presidency towards the G20 summit at the end of October (People, Planet, Prosperity), a fourth “P”: the “P” for Peace.
The G20 Interfaith Forum was held for the first in 2014 in Australia, with the aim of creating an annual platform for dialogue between representatives of different faiths, providing them with the possibility to present ideas and recommendations to political leaders. The Interfaith Forum draws on the “vital role that institutions and religious faiths play in world affairs” and their “rich diversity in terms of ideas and values”.
Religious and political leaders, experts, and diplomats from 70 different countries took part to this year’s edition and were welcomed in Bologna by Cardinal Zuppi, who has always been very committed to interreligious dialogue. Messages from the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, and from Italian President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella, opened the Forum.
“The idea of bringing together scholars, representatives of different faiths and members of civil society in a specific moment dedicated to the spiritual dimension is a far-sighted choice, particularly in a moment in when many are tempted to use religion as an element of confrontation rather than dialogue” said Mattarella in his message, underlining the “constructive contribution that the various confessions can offer to the cause of peace”.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi spoke at the end of the event. “The celebration of diversity and dialogue between cultures and religions is essential for civil coexistence. We often understand this only when it is late: when clashes and violence are no longer avoidable” said Draghi, citing the “worrying increase of religious extremism and conflicts between faiths”, including ISIS attacks but also white and Christian supremacism and the growing manifestations of anti-Semitism. “The international community, and the G20 that Italy presides over this year, must hold the respect for freedom and the maintenance of peace as its primary objectives” concluded the Prime Minister.
At the end of G20 Interfaith Forum, the delegates voted a document addressed to the G20 countries, containing a very brief declaration of common commitments, made up of only three sentences: “We will not kill each other. We will rescue each other. We will forgive each other“.
A declaration of intent that involves an assumption of responsibility, as underlined by the words that Pope Francis addressed to the participants: “we must help each other to free the horizon of the sacred from the dark clouds of violence and fundamentalism, strengthening ourselves in the conviction that “the otherness of God points us towards others, towards our brothers and sisters”. Yes, true religiosity consists in adoring God and loving one’s neighbour.”