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Women of different faiths unite on International Women's Day for Peace

foto 5 marzo

The World Union of Catholic Women's Organisations (WUCWO), in collaboration with the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue (DID), celebrated again this year, as every year since 2019, the International Women's Day 2024 with an ecumenical and interreligious gathering, attended by more than 300 participants from all over the world.

Entitled "Women Sowing Seeds of Peace and Cultivating Encounter", this initiative took place on Tuesday 5 March 2024, with the participation of believing women belonging to different religious traditions. The aim was to reflect on the crucial role of women believers in building a culture of peace and encounter.

Inspired by Pope Francis' message for the 56th World Day of Peace, in particular the words "our greatest and yet most fragile treasure is our shared humanity as brothers and sisters, children of God. And that none of us can be saved alone ", the event highlighted the common humanity of all and the collective co-responsibility in the promotion of peace.

In situations of war and conflict around the world, women and girls suffer the most. In politically motivated conflicts or climatic disasters, women are often left at the head of their families and are therefore the most vulnerable to discrimination. With their resilience and listening skills, women can be builders of peace and dialogue.

The online conference was opened by Mónica Santamarina, WUCWO President General, who highlighted the crucial role of women believers in society and in families, promoting fundamental values such as respect for human rights, peace and the elimination of all forms of discrimination. "Faith, professed according to one's own tradition, gives us the peace and inner strength to spread these values in our communities and families, thus contributing to the development of a culture of encounter," she said.

The words of His Eminence Card. Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, Prefect of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue (DID), were spoken in his absence by Sister Grace Marie Horan, an official of the Dicastery.  Specifically, the Cardinal focused his speech on Mary, woman of peace, encouraging contemporary women to draw inspiration from her deep faith. He reminded them that "as we work to sow seeds of peace, let us always cultivate what is most essential: the flame of faith in our hearts. It is nourished by remembering and venerating the stories of so many people of faith who have gone before us".                                     

The round table, moderated by Lavinia Rocchi Carrera, WUCWO's Secretary General, addressed the theme of encounter and peace building, with the participation of distinguished speakers from different faiths.

Muslim Perspective - Dr. Rudina Collaku

Founder and Executive Director of the Women's Centre for Development and Culture in Albania (WCDCA), she addressed the topic of preventing extremism among young people, emphasizing the importance of the role of young people as agents of change. Dr Collaku highlighted the significant number of young people recruited into wars and terrorist organisations and pointed that preventing extremism requires a collective effort from society as a whole, with a commitment to education, training and social inclusion, starting with the most at-risk areas.

Buddhist perspective - Rev. Elena Seishin Viviani

Vice-President of the Italian Buddhist Union, she eloquently illustrated the complexity and importance of full consciousness-based meditative practice in the Buddhist tradition. This approach not only provides an effective perspective for coping with stress and external threats, but also leads to deep inner transformation and the generation of a kind heart. In addition, she shared details about an important project of the Italian Buddhist Union aimed at spreading the practice of mindfulness in prisons, in which 27 penitentiary centers are actively involved.

Hindu Perspective - Svamini Hamsananda Ghiri

Vice-President of the Italian Hindu Union, shared her experience on intercultural dialogue and the attitudes of the host cultures towards Hindu immigrant women in Italy. Special emphasis was placed on the participation of women in the political and social spheres of the contemporary world.

Jewish Perspective - Rabbi Allyson Zacharoff

The Rabbi of Congregation Beth Hatikvah in Summit, NJ, USA, spoke about the experience of interfaith dialogue initiatives among university students: initiatives involving young Christians, Muslims and Jews, such as visits to places of worship and discussions. She also underlined the difficulties related to anti-Semitism. Specifically, she emphasised that, with all the growing challenges and tensions, the foundation of interfaith dialogue on university campuses, forged over the past 50 years, provides hope that significant conversations regarding diverse perspectives and differences can continue in the future.

Ecumenical perspective - Rev. Dr. Kuzipa Nalwamba

Representative of the World Council of Churches (WCC), she spoke about the contribution of women, members or leaders of Christian communities, in peace processes, providing specific examples of their dedication across all five continents.

For the WCC, the Pilgrimage of Justice, Reconciliation and Unity includes gender justice and peace without sexual and gender-based violence as an important part of the churches' justice and peace agenda. This is a theological and missiological imperative. The evolution of women's struggles and critical achievements for gender justice and the "community of women and men" in the ecumenical movement and beyond is a hopeful sign for the work.

Catholic perspective - Dr. Valeria Martano

Dr. Valeria Martano, of the Community of Sant'Egidio and Consultant for the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue (DID), responded to the question on the nature of peace in times of war, highlighting the current existence of up to 59 conflicts in the world, many of which are forgotten, but each one represents a tragedy. However, she pointed out that the unanimous doctrine of the Catholic Church, through the words of its pontiffs, urges us to reject the culture of the enemy and to always seek the resolution of conflicts through peace.

In times of war, reflection on the nature of peace focuses on  building a culture of peace and encounter, inspired by the words of Pope John Paul II. In the midst of today's global crises, characterised by numerous conflicts, the Catholic Church encourages the rejection of the adversarial culture, promoting dialogue and conflict resolution through pacifism as a universal right. The call is to become peacemakers, focusing on concrete examples of women who embody peace in dark times.

The event was enriched by the commentaries of the sponsors of the meeting: H.E. Florence Mangin - Ambassador of France to the Holy See, H.E. Chiara Porro - Ambassador of Australia to the Holy See and H.E. Annemieke Ruigrok - Ambassador of the Netherlands to the Holy See. In sharing their views, they stressed that mutual understanding is the beginning of a fruitful encounter, and encounters are the beginning of harmony.

The meeting was simultaneously translated into English, Spanish, French and Italian, making the meeting accessible to a worldwide  audience.

Link to watch the conference        

English https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzRvQyYJYw8         

French https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yw8o0mTWYFA

English https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eGtz7sLeJo