On May 14th 2020, for the International Day of Prayer, Fasting and Charitable Works, the world’s faithful are called to pray according to their traditions to beseech God’s aid in helping mankind to overcome the crisis generated by a pandemic that has taken so many lives and bereaved so many corners of the world. United in suffering, Christians were encouraged to pray together and aid their neighbours both close and far.
The tradition of common prayers began in 1986, during the historic meeting in Assisi between Pope John Paul II and the leaders of the world’s great religions. The Sovereign Pontiff intuited the profound value and untapped potential for peace contained in something as simple as common prayers. He invited people to pray alongside one another, not against one another. In Assisi, in 1986, leaders of the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist faithful, among others, joined in simultaneous and joint prayer for the first time.
Thirty years after the first interfaith conference for peace, called by Saint John Paul II, the Sant’Egidio Community, established in 1968 and thoroughly dedicated to ecumenism, organized a new International Day of Prayer in Assisi. His Sanctity, Pope Francis, His Holiness Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and His Holiness, Ephrem II, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch prayed together for the betterment of mankind.
During his sermon on the International Day of Prayer, Fasting and Charitable Works, Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the Sant’Egidio Community, highlighted that “this is a day of prayer, fast and mercy, experienced by different religions and promoted by Pope Francis and the great Imam Al Tayyeb. Joint prayers do not signify syncretic confusion. The faithful of different religions spend one day immersed in prayer and the experience of the religious sentiments and attitudes associated with the concepts of mercy and fasting. It is the Muslim month of Ramadan: the month of fasting and abstinence from sin and violence. The synchronic prayer across religions is a new gift from God at a time in which hatred and religious conflicts unfortunately continue to plague the world”.
The Sant’Egidio Community is one of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization’s partners for the project titled “The Levant, Cradle of Abrahamic Religions”.