Jordan’s King Abdullah II urged greater co-operation to take on serious challenges worldwide as he was awarded a top Catholic peace prize by the Conventual Franciscans of the Sacred Convent of Assisi in central Italy.
The annual award, known as the Lamp of Peace, recognises King Abdullah’s promotion of peace in the Middle East, support of interreligious dialogue, welcome of refugees and educational reforms.
“To me, the Lamp of Peace of St Francis symbolises how peace lights our way forward to a better future for all people, of every faith and country and community,” Abdullah told a packed St Francis Basilica, housing the saint’s relics and the renowned fresco series of his life.
“But it is our task to provide the fuel for that light, and what fuels global peace is mutual respect and understanding,” Abdullah emphasised, receiving strong applause.
“It is only by combining our efforts that humanity will meet today’s serious challenges – to solve global crises; heal our earth’s environment; and include everyone, especially our youth, in opportunity,” the king told the assembly. Among the congregation were last year’s award recipient, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Franciscan Fr Mauro Gambetti presented the Lamp of Peace to the king.
Abdullah asked for a moment of silence to “remember the suffering families and victims of the terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, two weeks ago. Such evil, wherever it happens, is our suffering, too.”
As Jordan’s Hashemite monarch, the 41st-generation direct descendant of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, Abdullah has upheld the importance of the Christian presence in his country and the Middle East in general.
“The principles of coexistence and interfaith harmony are deeply embedded in Jordan’s heritage,” he said. “Our country is home to a historic Christian community. All our citizens actively share in building our strong nation. Indeed, Christians have been part of Middle East societies for thousands of years and are vital to the future of our region.”
The king also highlighted the need to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli crisis and safeguard Jerusalem. “I am bound by a special, personal duty to the security and future of the holy city,” he said.
If the king’s example were followed, the world and, especially the Middle East, would be a better place to live in, said Msgr Khaled Akasheh of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue at the Vatican.
Since its launch in 1981, the Lamp of Peace has been awarded to those seeking the peaceful coexistence of people. It has been granted to several political and religious leaders, most notably trade unionist and former Polish President Lech Walesa, former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Pope Francis, St John Paul II, the Dalai Lama, St Teresa of Kolkata and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Lamp of Peace is a replica of a local glass oil lamp that glows at the grave of St Francis of Assisi, who lived until 1226 and whose observations of wildlife inspired environmental ethics. Traditionally used in Italy’s central Umbria region, where Assisi is found, the small lamp contains local olive oil, considered a symbol of peace.