For 25 years, the Community of Sant'Egidio, a lay Catholic group inspired by the ideals of true friendship with the poor, has organized an annual gathering of religious and lay leaders from all corners of the world. Peace is the theme always, and the event has the character of a pilgrimage, as it takes place each year in a different city. This year it is in Munich, and this sparkling city in southern Germany is witnessing a colorful array of visitors that represents a living pageant of world religious history. Catholic and Orthodox leaders are perhaps the most obvious, in their contrasting red, white and black robes and hats, but a splash of orange on monks from South and southeast Asia, more sober garb on Japanese Buddhists and the meticulous robes of the Japanese Shinto group are testimony to the wide reach of this gathering.
The annual event brings the leaders together to demonstrate that indeed peace is for them a powerful and common bond. Dozens of panel discussions explore different conflict situations and issues. And there is a vivid public face. This year's title and theme is, with a somewhat stilted but thought-provoking title, "Bound to Live Together: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue." "Bound to" evokes the powerful links in today's globalized world. Speaking among many other issues to Europe's tensions in grappling with immigrants, "bound to" also means that we simply have to live together, like it or not.
The 2011 event opened on Sept.11, and, timed to the moment when planes struck the World Trade towers, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania field, a solemn ceremony featured two relatives of 9/11 victims. The spirit of Sept. 12, 2001, when the world declared: "we are all Americans," was recalled in hope and concern -- hope that the ideals are alive, concern that the painful decade since then has brought war back onto the agenda as a path to peace and clouded the power of the American vision of hope and equality.
The Prayer for Peace continues today with reflections and a remarkable pageant. They can be seen live.
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