Voices from the interreligious conference that opened the 26th edition of the Tertio Millennio Film Fest at the Waldensian Church in Rome. Don Savina, Dialogue Office of the CEI: “Let’s clear this path from the niche of theologians and experts, also thanks to cinema and culture”. Muslim Lafram, president Ucoii: “Allah created us different so that we could know each other”. Rabbi Carucci: “In us both Cain and Abel, if we understand it, we can dialogue with each other”
Alessandro Di Bussolo – Vatican City
Bringing ecumenical and interreligious dialogue out of the niche of theologians and experts, bringing it into culture and even cinema. This was the aim of the conference “The Return of Cain”, which opened the 26th edition of the Tertio Millennio Film Fest on the same theme. The coordinator of the Interreligious Dialogue Table who prepared the meeting and chose the theme of the Film Festival, Don Giuliano Savinadirector of the CEI Office for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue, spoke of “clearing” this dialogue, and Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (Ucoii), has called for “making dialogue pandemic”, so that “it is not limited to religious contexts”, to bring it “where there is no talk of dialogue”. The experience of the Protestant, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist communities participating in the Table is already a sign of this openness.
A comparison on the sacred text of Genesis about Cain and Abel
A prophetic sign was also the confrontation on the sacred text of Genesis and the fratricide of Cain against Abel “which did not close, but opened to dialogue” according to Don Savina, advocate of a dialogue between men and women of different religious traditions, if they do not they close in on themselves, but open up to the other. Again Lafram echoed him, recalling that in the Koran it is written that “If God had wanted to create a single community of faith he would have done so, and that Allah created us different ‘so that you might know each other'”.
Milani: for Saint Ambrose Cain and Abel “two parts within us”
The conference, in the Waldensian Church of Rome, was opened by the greeting of Monsignor Davide Milani, president of the Ente dello Spettacolo Foundation, which organizes the Tertio Millennio Film Fest, from 14 to 18 November, with the patronage of three Dicasteries of the Holy See, those for Social Communications, for Culture and Education and for Interreligious Dialogue . As Provost of Lecco, in the Diocese of Milan, he recalled how Saint Ambrose had noted that “Cain and Abel are not just two independent characters of the biblical story” but “two internal parts of the subject, the index of a division that runs through each our”; “inside of us there are both”.
Carucci: Cain never left, but he teaches us to repent
A mixture also underlined by the rabbi Benedetto Carucci Viterbi, who, responding to the initial provocation of the moderator, the Catholic theologian Brunetto Salvarani, declared that “Cain never left, because we are Cain too, the hypothesis that there is someone completely good is unreal. Knowing also means mixing and putting together. We are a constant mix of good and evil, and if we realize this, we can enter into dialogue with others. Cain teaches us this, together with the possibility of repenting and obtaining God’s forgiveness”.
Reading evil and violence in Hinduism and Buddhism
The nun is also linked to this duality of the human being Swamini Shuddhananda Ghiri, referent for the Italian Hindu Union, underlining that it is only a simplification “to say that we are all good or all bad”, and that in the scriptures of the Hindu tradition, there are figures similar to Cain and Abel. After her the Buddhist William Doryu Hats, connected online, he recalled that religions, with their precepts, try to give indications on how to avoid evil, but the attempt to eradicate evil is also a source of violence. Thus right and wrong are mixed, and “purifying the heart”, for Buddhists, is going beyond dichotomies.
Garrone: the gray area of those who are neither Cain nor Abel
For the president of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy, the biblical scholar Daniele Garrone, the problem with us ordinary people, who are not Cain, the murderer, nor Abel, the martyr, is like living in a world of many Cain and Abel, in an intermediate, gray area. The risk among Christians is Abel’s rhetoric, “the attraction of victims, if you are a victim you are good… If you react you are no longer so. We cannot solve the problems of peace and war – he concluded – with the good-evil dichotomy, but deal with our own ambiguity and that of the world”.
Salvarani: crisis of democracies, the role of religious communities
In its summary, Brunetto Salvarani, professor at the Theological Faculty of Emilia-Romagna, who had asked how to develop a common strategy “to live Brothers and Sisters all”, took up three ideas from the debate. The persistence of Cain’s paradigm, “and this is a problem, because we would like it to go away”. But we are all Cain and Abel, “there is this mixture, we cannot assume the role of perpetrator or victim forever. And this must question the Churches and also governments and companies”. For Monsignor Milani perhaps religious communities should “disseminate an antidote against the instinctual vision of evil, a spiritual vision that raises man from his materiality. Otherwise Cain wins, and if he reacts to his violence with more violence, he becomes even stronger. But man is more than his instincts ”. At the end of the conference, here are the words of Salvarani a Vatican News:
How to answer the question that was asked at the beginning? When did Cain ever leave the stage of history?
Unfortunately he never left, as we see very well in recent months and weeks. Today something else has emerged, that basically there is a part of Cain and a part of Abel in us, there is a coexistence, unfortunately of the role of victim with the role of aggressor, this the sacred texts tell us. I would say that a third very important thing has emerged: in the public space religions today are called, not alone, but together with all women and men of good will, to have their say in order to bring a message of peace, nonviolence, of pacification and coexistence of which there is an enormous need. So there is a need for a soul, a spirituality in reading the conflict as well, because the risk is that man simply remains that animal that he too is. If we remain only this, however, there isn’t a great prospect and there isn’t a great hope for the future.
However, Rabbi Carucci Viterbi said that perhaps in the end religions have to take a step back because they risk always entering into conflict, like Cain and Abel, on the field where to praise God, everyone wants the temple to be on their own terrain. So maybe it’s better to meet as people…
In fact, it is above all people who should meet. In fact there is always this misunderstanding, when we talk about interreligious dialogue, we never talk about working on people’s heads: it’s not the religions that dialogue, it’s the people. Today, even in this crisis of democracy, in this crisis of representation, people who are part of religious communities, on the other hand, have a decisive role and I truly believe that they will have it more and more in perspective.
However, a positive look always came from the rabbi, who recalled that Cain is the one who kills, but he is also the one who repents in the end…
There was this beautiful emphasis, above all from a certain Jewish exegesis: Cain is the first to repent, and he is even his father’s educator, in the sense that Adam, knowing that there is the possibility of repenting, then questions himself and he even asks Cain: “but then is it true that God forgives, that Mercy is his key to understanding?”. And Cain, in this case his father’s pedagogue, says yes. So the hope is that we will also go in this direction on our part.