“[A] unique and significant initiative. . . that will bring together leaders of all the important world religions to assist G-20 governments in building a united, pluralist and peaceful world”

~ The Print (India)

The R20 seeks to promote mutual understanding, peaceful co-existence, and harmony among the world’s diverse peoples, religions, and nations. In pursuit of this objective, the R20 is mobilizing political, religious, and economic leaders from G20 Member States and elsewhere throughout the world, to ensure that religion functions as a genuine and dynamic source of solutions, rather than problems, in the 21st century.

The R20 Bali Communiqué, adopted on 3 November 2022, outlines the organization’s high-level vision and objectives. It reads, in part:

  1. [T]he R20 calls upon religious and political leaders and people of goodwill of every faith and nation to join in building a global alliance founded upon shared civilizational values.
  2. The R20, through this global alliance, seeks to:
    1. develop and implement concrete initiatives that will build bridges between nations and civilizations;
    2. encourage honest and realistic conversation within and between religious communities, in order to ensure that religion functions as a genuine and dynamic source of solutions, rather than problems;
    3. infuse the world’s social, political, and economic power structures with moral and spiritual values;
    4. prevent the political weaponization of identity;
    5. curtail the spread of communal hatred;
    6. promote solidarity and respect among the diverse peoples, cultures, and nations of the world;
    7. safeguard human beings from violence and suffering precipitated by conflict;
    8. call upon the world to actively assist those who are suffering the consequences of such violence;
    9. harness the wisdom of spiritual ecology embedded within the world’s religious traditions to ensure respect for, and preservation of, the natural environment, including the elements of earth, air, and water; [and]
    10. foster the emergence of a truly just and harmonious world order, founded upon respect for the equal rights and dignity of every human being.

Professor Alberto Melloni, Secretary of the Foundation for Religious Studies (fscire.it) and UNESCO Chair on Religious Pluralism and Peace at the University of Bologna (Italy)

The Greatness and Misery of Interreligious Dialogue

R20 Address by Professor Alberto Melloni
(edited for publication)

It has become customary in the past two decades, at least, to use an argument concerning interfaith dialogue that peace is the “true” use of religion, and violence is the “abuse” of religion…. However, the historian must say that facts induce us to have a certain prudence around these claims. Because history is there to tell us that religious beliefs have an inherent power to feed violence or to foster peace….

There is a joke that I sometimes tell, which is that to hold conferences in which people declare that true lions are vegetarians is useless. Lions are not vegetarians, and the people of faith — human beings, for those who have read Augustine — are not vegetarians, but are dangerous. So to curb violence, you do not need to say that true lions are vegetarians. Instead, you have to take responsibility….

If interfaith dialogue is simply a place in which religious leaders parrot standard opinions ‘in their own words,’ it is destined to be a useless exercise. If theologies merely endorse the agendas of those who are most powerful in society, assimilating religious values with other [largely secular] values, this will ignite rebellion. If religious pluralism is nothing but a facile sermon on fraternity to be kindly preached, it will never become reality. If faiths only serve to provide motivational support for economic agendas that already lie at the heart of the G20, this will become an empty effort.

On the contrary, religious leaders must adopt penance and truth, conscious that the Almighty knows everything about each of them, knows everything about each of us here, knows our intentions. And what the historian knows is that the most powerful sermons, the most powerful prophets, are those who are fully conscious that He knows — knows the sincerity of the sincerest ones, knows the ideology of the ideological ones, knows the superficiality of the superficial ones, and knows the hope for peace and desire for unity that exists among the human family.

There is a sentence of Gregory the Great: “Divina eloquia cum legente crescent.” “The Word of God grows with the one who reads it.” And I hope that the R20 will be a place in which we can read again the truth that has been revealed to us, and that offers to us a chance to assume our responsibility.