Peres’ proposal to Francis to set up a UN of religions
The Pope received the former Israeli president and Jordan’s Prince Hassan bin Talal. The Middle East and interreligious dialogue were the focus of their talks
The Middle East and the current turmoil there were at the centre of two separate audiences which Francis held this morning. First the Pope received the former president of the Republic of Israel, Shimon Peres and then the Prince of Jordan, Hassan bin Talal. Both were directly involved in Pope Francis’ recent visit to the Holy Land; Francis developed cordial relations with both of them, beyond protocol formalities. Prince Hassan bin Talal is known for his efforts in fostering interreligious dialogue. Peres was one of the key figures present at the historic meeting of prayer for peace in the Middle East, held in the Vatican Gardens.
The former president of the Republic of Israel had a very specific proposal to make at this meeting. He talked about it in an interview with Famiglia Cristiana before the meeting: his proposal was essentially to create a UN of religions. “The UN has run its course, what we need is an Organisation of United Religions, a UN of religions,” Peres said in his interview with Famiglia Cristiana. This would be the best way to fight against these terrorists who kill in the name of faith, because the majority of people are not like them, they practice their religion without killing anyone, without this thought ever crossing their minds.”
“And I think there should also be a United Religions Charter, just like the UN Charter,” Peres went on to say. “The new Charter would state on behalf of all faiths that slitting people’s throats or carrying out mass slaughters, as we have seen in the past weeks, has nothing to do with religion. This was my proposal to the Pope.”
91-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres underlined that “today we are faced with hundreds, possibly thousands of terrorist movements that aim to kill in the name of God. This is a completely new kind of war compared to those fought in the past. It is different in terms of technique but above all in terms of the reasons for which it is being fought. We have the United Nations to deal with this. It is a political organization but it has neither the armies which nations possess, nor the firm belief which religions foster.”
Due to the power of religions and the Pope’s charisma, Peres would like Pope Francis to lead the proposed UN of religions: “When I look around me I notice one thing: perhaps for the first time in history the Holy Father is a leader who has the respect of many people as well as the most diverse religions and their representatives. Indeed, he may actually be the only leader they really respect. Hence the idea I proposed to Francis.”
Francis welcomed the idea with interest and encouragement; he did not commit to it personally but assured Peres that there are Vatican dicasteries that deal with these kinds of initiatives. “The Pope,” the Holy See’s spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi said, “The Pope spent a long time talking with Mr. Peres whom he sees as a man of peace and even though there no official statements were issued as these were not audiences with heads of state or of government, the long duration of the talks shows that the Pope took an interest in Peres’ proposals and the information the Jordanian prince gave him on his interreligious centre for peace, expressing his encouragement.” The Pope explained that “there are Holy See dicasteries in charge of such initiatives: the dicastery for interreligious dialogue and the dicastery for Justice and Peace. Cardinals Kock and Turkson will consider this proposal carefully,” Lombardi said.
The second audience Pope Francis held in the Vatican this morning was with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s Prince El Hassan bin Talal and it lasted about half an hour. Fr. Lombardi said this recalling the prince’s efforts in the field of interreligious dialogue as the founder of an interreligious centre for peace and human rights. “He spoke to the Pope about the work done to combat violence and in favour of human dignity, of brotherhood and of assistance to the poor in a globalized world. This is done by drawing on the common values religions hold, doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, in other words. Prince Hassan gave the Pope a collection of texts from various denominations, edited by the interreligious centre he founded.