Men and women of goodwill across the globe on Thursday responded to Pope Francis’ call to join in prayer to participate in the “One Minute for Peace” initiative.
The Pope’s appeal for prayers and international participation in the initiative came during his Wednesday General Audience when he recalled that the initiative represents a short moment a of prayer on the recurrence of the meeting in the Vatican between the Pope, the late Israeli President Peres, and the Palestinian President Abbas.
Their encounter took place in the Vatican Gardens on 8 June 2014, during which the three men prayed together for peace.
“In our days, Pope Francis said, there is a great need to pray – Christians, Jews, and Muslims – for peace.”
Bishop Antoine Audo says it is important and he expresses his admiration for Pope Francis, whom he said, “uses little things to not forget peace and to say that everybody is able to build peace in the world”.
Audo says this is a very Christian way to oppose war and to express our faith, with our roots in the reality it is a way, he explains to be incarnate – to be “hic et nunc” as it is defined in theology.
“I admire this initiative: it helps us a lot. But at the same time as bishop living in Aleppo and Syria I have to say we are very tired about the perspective of peace; we wait, we wait, we wait, and at the same time our families and young people are leaving to emigrate and this is a very big sadness for us” he says.
The bishop says the situation, in particular of Christians in Syria, who are a small minority is difficult, but “we continue to stay rooted in the faith and in the truth and after that, we will see.”
Audo speaks of the current situation in Syria’s largest city, which in over six years of violence has become the biggest symbol of the damage wrought by the Syrian war. He says that since Christmas there have not been bombings as the fighting is now continuing outside the city.
He says they can hear the bombing but generally the situation is more peaceful, the situation less stressful than a few months ago.
“But without regular water, without electricity, and the big problem is the economic situation; there are no jobs and 80% of the people are without a job” he says.
As Pope Francis points out, Audo says, “Work is dignity”: “we have lost our dignity; everybody has become poor and asking for food aid to live”.
He also said that a big problem today is the obligation for young people to enroll in the military service, so you have so many young people who are very afraid of being forced to fight and they flee.
“This means the war is not finished yet” he says.
Regarding the current fear of terrorist attacks and the idea that situations of conflict, marginalization and exclusion provide fertile soil for radicalization, Bishop Audo says he believes that most of those attracted to extremist militancy are Sunnite youths, without any hope.
“If we look at the psychological level I think they are experiencing a big humiliation before the West generally; the powerful West is dominating, is leading politically with its provocative culture of ‘teaching’ others; ‘the West is bringing human rights, civilization.’ And on the other hand, according to the point of view both of educated and of simple people, they are experiencing a big humiliation” he says.
This, Audo says, is a big fault of the western world because “I think the West has lost faith in God and in Christ so it is not able to have the sensitivity to respect the other; everything is power, everything is finance, everything is strategies and there is no future for these politics.”