Baha'i leader speaks about Benedict XVI, dialogue and the legacy of Assisi 2011
by Nirmala Carvalho
A.K. Merchant remembers the 'Pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace' meeting the pope convened to mark the 25th anniversary of John Paul II's first World Day of Peace in 1986. The way young people welcomed him shows how Benedict XVI is a "moral compass" for new generations.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - .K. Merchant, director and former general secretary of the Indian Baha'i community, remembers meeting Benedict XVI at the World Day of Prayer for Peace, held on  27 October 2011 in Assisi, Italy, especially the pope's willingness to engage in dialogue with others and the Catholic Church's commitment to peace, justice and harmony.

Twenty-five years after John Paul II instituted that meeting in 1986, the current pope invited some 300 people, including representatives of the world's religions as well as non-believers, from 50 different countries, to discuss the topic of 'Pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace'. Merchant was the Baha'i representative.

The Baha'i religion recognises the founders of the world's great religions as announcers of the one God and considers all humans as one race without ethnic or religious distinctions.

For Merchant, the Assisi meeting was significant because the "Holy Father insisted on the need to engage in dialogue both believers and non-believers without sacrificing one's identity. He went beyond religion and spirituality, recognising that everybody, until the last person on earth, must be accepted and heard." The pope's "inclusiveness reveals his deep respect for the human person."

The Baha'i leader was equally impressed by the presence of young people at the meeting. "Thousands of young people were there at our arrival. Their enthusiasm and love for the Holy Father was amazing."

"Benedict XVI addressed them with dignity, highlighting their potential and capacity to be a force for positive change in this society. The response from the young people clearly showed that this pope is a 'moral compass' for their generation."

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