Cardinal Arinze: Religions for Peace

Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze’s cogently developed book Religions for Peace: A Call for Solidarity to the Religions of the World was originally published in 2002, and was re-released in 2013. Cardinal Arinze finished writing this book in the earlier part of 2001, but it was finally published in early 2002, in the wake of the infamous terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. In a relatively short volume (at just under one-hundred and fifty pages), Cardinal Arinze provides a coherent, objective, and ultimately practical approach to calling on all people of good will – of all faiths throughout the broad expanse of humanity – to take seriously our mutual desire to work collaboratively in order to foster and ensure global peace, for the well-being of future generations, and subsequently for the benefit of the kingdom of God. To a noteworthy degree, Cardinal Arinze manages to do so while mincing neither critique nor charity in response to how we must learn from the deleterious mistakes that some religious adherents have made in the past. Yet, Arinze achieves this with a consistently uplifting, positive, optimistic, and intellectually productive mindset, rather than a cynical or pessimistic outlook, which would reliably jeopardize attempts at arriving at lasting international peace.

Religions for Peace is divided into the following chapters (following the Preface, a Foreword by Cardinal Paul Poupard, and the Introduction): 1) Understanding Peace, 2) Religions Extol Peace, 3) Do Religions Cause War?, 4) Religions and Cultures as Help or Hindrance to Peace, 5) Religions Inculcating Attitudes for Peace, 6) Religions Promoting Practical Initiatives for Peace, 7) Religions and Prayer for Peace, 8) Some Interreligious Initiatives for Peace, 9) The Catholic Church and Peace Promotion, 10) Freedom of Religion Needed for Peace, and 11) Peace Promotion: A Task for All. Each of these chapters covers the topic posited therein to a satisfactorily introductory degree, drawing the reader to delve ever more profoundly into the particular discussion at hand via additional education and information on the matter.

Due to his fair and rational accounting of the issues inherent to substantive inter-religious dialogue, Cardinal Arinze has won the resounding praise of prominent leaders of various mainstream faith traditions throughout the course of his monumental contributions as a Catholic prelate. Such commendations are in no short supply regarding Religions for Peace, which has received the official endorsement of not only a multitude of his fellow Christian leaders, but also various Jewish leaders, Muslim leaders, and devotees of other religious traditions. Of course, as should be expected, Cardinal Arinze arrives at this equilibrium of discourse without shying away from proclaiming the beautiful teachings of the Catholic faith and the complementary nature of some occasionally corresponding aspects of other belief systems. Thus, as Cardinal Arinze mentions on page fifty-one of his text, “Interreligious dialogue is a sincere meeting of a person deeply convinced of his own faith, with a believer in another religion. It presupposes peaceful possession of one’s religious identity card, and membership in such good standing in one’s religious community that one can be named an ambassador of that community.”

Catholics, along with anyone of good will, would do well to take the time (assuredly pleasantly spent) reading through Cardinal Francis Arinze’s Religions for Peace. Even over a decade after its original publication, this book continues to have extensive merit and a far-reaching scope in terms of its myriad implications for how we can all benefit from appreciating legitimate indications of the prospect of global peace, spurred by the interests of practitioners of faith traditions that are amenably open to such a noble goal. Let us always bear in mind the truth-imbued words of Jesus Christ, who proclaimed, as we read in John 14:27, “‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.’”

Justin McClain

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Justin, his wife Bernadette, and their three children (John-Paul, Mary Christine, and Thérèse) live in Bowie, Maryland. Justin has taught theology and Spanish at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland, since 2006. He has degrees from the University of Maryland - College Park, the Universidad de Salamanca (Spain), and Staffordshire University (England), and he has studied philosophy and theology at Seton Hall University, the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and the University of Notre Dame's Satellite Theological Education Program. Justin has written for Ave Maria Press, Aleteia, EpicPew, Our Sunday Visitor, Catholic365, Church Life, and various other publications. He is on Twitter (@McClainJustin).

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  • Taylor Hall

    While I generally love hearing what His Eminence Cardinal Arinze has to say about the Church’s moral teachings and liturgy, this particular book of his is completely misguided. This form of “inter-religious dialogue” ignores the fact that lasting peace can only come through the grace of Jesus Christ and conversion to His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. The saints of old (like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thomas Aquinas) did not pursue dialogue with religions such as Islam, that are clearly violent in nature and intent on destroying Western Civilization. Furthermore, Christ said “I came not to establish peace, but the sword” (Matthew 10:34). This does not mean of course, that we should exert violence against the innocent or that we should assume that all Muslims are inherently violent (most are not). However, we cannot enter into dialogue with other religions and expect lasting peace. This is the vision of the UN, not the Catholic Church.

  • Taylor Hall

    Of course faith has to be both contemplated and lived. If one is properly contemplating the faith, then one will be properly living the faith. The two do not contradict. Certainly the Beatitudes say “Blessed are the Peacemakers,” but on what grounds is that peace supposed to be established? Those at the Battle of Lepanto did not attempt to dialogue with Islam in order to establish peace, but preserved peace by recognizing that Islam is one of the greatest threats to Christ’s Church, and fighting against it. Those who defended Vienna in the 17th century against the Ottomans knew the true nature of Islam. St. Thomas Aquinas certainly knew the true character of Islam. The Martyrs of Otranto did not dialogue with Islam, but laid down there lives in defense of the truth. Were Catholics for all those centuries for somehow recognizing that Islam is inherently dangerous to the faith and to peace? The answer is an affirmative no.

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