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Cablegate: Religious and Political Leaders Gather to Advance World

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RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHROV #0161/01 3111016
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 071016Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0832
INFO RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0132
RUEHNP/AMCONSUL NAPLES 0001
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 0001
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 0056
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 0064
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 0864

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 VATICAN 000161

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT. FOR EUR/WE; ROME FOR POL; NAPLES FOR CG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KIRF EC IS VT
SUBJECT: RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL LEADERS GATHER TO ADVANCE WORLD
PEACE

VATICAN 00000161 001.2 OF 003


This is a combined Embassy Vatican/ US Consulate General Naples
cable

Summary

-----------

1. (U) Religious and political leaders from around the world
convened in Naples under the auspices of a Catholic
non-governmental organization for three days of dialogue and
debate on a broad range of issues under the overall theme of "A
World without Violence". Among the participants were heads of
state, Italy's minister of foreign affairs, and Israel's
minister of interior. Panelists on a discussion on Israel and
Palestine called for negotiations on final status issues for the
upcoming Annapolis conference. Muslim scholars underlined that
Islam is a religion of peace and criticized USG policies in the
Middle East. Various speakers welcome the selection of Naples,
a city with many social problems including violence, as the host
for this year's gathering.

Discussions draw crowds

------------------------------

2. (U) The conference, which took place from October 21 to the
23, was organized by the Community of Sant'Egidio, an
association founded in Rome in 1968 dedicated to evangelization
and charity in Italy and in more than seventy countries around
the world (Note: Sant'Egidio website, www.santegidio.org,
describes the organization as a movement of lay people with more
than 50,000 members. End note). Pope Benedict XVI's October 21
Mass for 20,000 people in Naples served as a high-profile
prelude to the conference -- Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi
and the presidents of Ecuador and Tanzania later participated in
the Conference's first plenary session.

3. (U) During his homily, the Pope called on authorities to
build more schools and create more jobs in Naples to combat the
"disgraceful" Camorra. The Pope also condemned
religiously-inspired violence, stating that "in a world wounded
by conflicts, where violence is justified in God's name, it's
important to repeat that religion can never become a vehicle of
hatred, it can never be used in God's name to justify violence."

4. (U) At the opening ceremony of the inter-faith dialogue -- an
event first organized by Pope John Paul II in Assisi in 1986 --
most of the speakers focused on the contribution that world
religions can make to world peace. Some dissonant notes were
sounded by the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, who called
on the religious leaders to publicly and specifically condemn
the Iranian President for his statements regarding Israel; and
Dr. Ezzeddin Ibrahim, founder of the United Arab Emirates
University, who referred to the US presence in Iraq as an
occupation resulting from a war "based on false pretenses" and
who criticized Metzger for singling out Iran.

5. (U) The inauguration was followed by three days of meetings.
Different sessions (32 in all) tackled such issues as AIDS,
immigration, Latin America, and the plight of Africa. Some of
the sessions had overflow crowds, with organizers running out of
headphones for interpreting.

Panel discussion on the Arab-Israeli conflict

--------------------------------------------- --------


VATICAN 00000161 002.2 OF 003


6. (U) In a panel discussion under the banner "Israel -
Palestine: a long struggle for peace," Italian Foreign Minister
Massimo D'Alema underlined the need to achieve tangible
outcomes, such an agreement or a "preface to an agreement" at
the November Arab-Israeli Conference in Annapolis. D'Alema also
suggested that NATO could play a useful role in bringing peace
to the Middle East through a partnership with Israel and the
Arab countries similar to the "Partnership for Peace" agreements
that NATO has negotiated with former Soviet republics.

7 (U) Israeli Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit said he was in
favor of discussing final status issues (Jerusalem, refugees and
borders) in Annapolis. He stated that the Roadmap had failed,
and that there was a need for a new approach. He added that
there should also be direct negotiations between Palestinian and
Israelis in Jerusalem and in Ramallah itself, criticizing what
he viewed as an overdependence on the international community to
solve the region's problems. The Palestinian representative,
Jamal Zakout, urged support for the Saudi peace initiative,
stating that twenty-two moderate Arab countries were for the
first time ready to support a peace treaty between Israel and
Palestine.

Ecuadorian President Condemns Violence of Economic Injustice

--------------------------------------------- --------------------

8. (U) In a panel discussion entitled "Latin America: a Future
without Violence", Ecuadorian President Delgado pointed to
economic injustice as the root cause of violence in Latin
America. Delgado complained that "our peoples" are forced to be
illegal immigrants because of the political and economic
injustices created in the 80s and 90s by "Washington's
policies". He continued by charging that neo-liberal economics
"has failed Latin America, and now I and other leaders in Latin
America must undertake massive social transformations to rectify
matters". Delgado also criticized "commercial globalization",
adding that "there are no illegal people, just illegal profits".

Final statement condemns violence in the name of religion

--------------------------------------------- ------------

9. (U) The official statement adopted by participants at the end
of the conference condemned violence as "an illness that
pollutes everything." The statement affirmed that "anyone who
uses the name of God to hate the other, to practice violence, or
to wage war, is cursing the name of God."

Comment

------------

10. (U) The International Prayer for Peace, now in its 21st
year, has become an institution, and one which attracts a large
number of prominent government and religious leaders from around
the world. Its panel discussions are interesting and sometimes
provocative, but the event's significance lies rather in (a) its
symbolic importance, and (b) its ability to serve as a
networking site for odd bedfellows, i.e. key political and
religious leaders who might otherwise find it difficult to meet.
In this regard it resembles Washington's annual National
Prayer Breakfast. In the past, the Community of Sant'Egidio has
been able to develop these initial contacts into specific
initiatives in areas such as retroviral programs for AIDS
victims, birth registrations for children in poor African
countries, and even concrete and lasting peace agreements, like
in Mozambique in 1992.


VATICAN 00000161 003.2 OF 003


11. (SBU) Embassy Vatican regularly attends the Prayer for
Peace, and this year Consulate General Naples also attended. In
spring 2006, when the event was held at Georgetown University in
Washington, Under Secretary Karen Hughes spoke at the event.
However, the USG is missing an opportunity by not participating
at a high level on a more regular basis. The next Prayer for
Peace will be held in September 2008 in Cyprus, a location with
evident potential for interfaith and political dialogue. Post
recommends that Department consider possible attendance at that
time by a senior USG representative, perhaps at Cabinet level.
Post would be delighted to work with Department and Embassy
Nicosia to facilitate such participation.
ROONEY

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