Our efforts at the International Franciscan Center for Dialogue have not always born fruit. One cannot really make a count of “successes and failures.” There have been many people who tell us long after a seemingly disastrous encounter, that it actually made all the difference in reaching an eventual solution.
One example came from a visit we were invited to make to South Africa, just three months prior to their first open elections. We met with all the leaders of the political parties, as well as with the organizers of the Peace Committee Project. A number of then government officials were polite to us, but there did not seem to be much of what we were expecting as “progress.” Life went on, as did some violence. There were elections, and history was made.
A year later, when South Africa was readmitted to the Commonwealth – a restoration of international recognition as a country, we were invited by the Anglican Church to give the homily at the Vesper Service held for the Diplomatic Corp, because they had considered us so instrumental in the South African process. What a surprise!
We can only make the offer, and pray that those people caught up in conflict will respond and find among us here in Assisi, a secure place in which to discover the dignity of their humanity, and the strength to make an option for the preservation of that dignity.
The tradition of invitation goes back a long way in our Franciscan tradition – asking the Sultan to seek non-violence, inviting the Mayor and Bishop of Assisi itself to come together. It seems appropriate for us as Franciscans to be quietly working “outside of the limelight,” with non-violence, rooted in every person’s heart.
Friar Peter Damian wrote this reflection when he served as the first General Delegate for Justice, Peace and the Safeguarding of Creation (now known as Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation).