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Special focus on Syria during St. Egidio's inter-religious peace conference in Rome


On the heels of Pope Francis many-sided efforts to promote peace in Syria,Romes Community of St. Egidio will host its yearly conference focused on dialogue and coexistence.   

The theme for the 27th edition is "the courage of hope,” a clear reference to Pope Francis and a common topic in his speeches. But the conference's goal is to foster dialogue between religions, to build peace. 

Community of St. Egidio
"The most important leaders of all the Christian Churches; Orthodox, Catholics, Evangelicals, are all discussing together what we can show to the world: our unity at the service of the peoples, and this is very important.” 

With panels addressing Eco-sustainability, or caring for the poor, the sick and the elderly, it's easy to see how Pope Francis has influenced this year's program. Organizers have even cut down costs greatly by using Vatican-owned or operated facilities. The Pope will also meet with participants. 

Community of St. Egidio
"He will deliver a speech, we will deliver greetings to him, and the speech is sort of, we can call not only an audience, but a special session with the Holy Father in the Vatican.” 

New panels include discussions on what religion says about violence against women, or the challenge religious terrorism poses to worshipers. And for the first time ever, one of the sessions will take place inside a prison, where panelists will address inmates on the courage of hope. 

But, without a doubt, Syria will be one of the most talked about topics. Panels touching on sensitive issues like ties between Christians and Muslims, challenges in world governance, and modern-day Christian martyrdom, will have a special focus on the conflict. 

Community of St. Egidio
"We have people also from Syria, from the Middle East in general and so, and we hope really that some agreement or some strategic decision could be taken during the meeting.” 

The conference will close with an inter-religious prayer and procession for peace. It will end up at Rome's Capitol Square, where delegates will sign the 2013 appeal for peace and embrace each other as a symbol of unity. 

So far, more than 5,000 participants signed up for the event, taking place from September 29 to October 1. But organizers expect some 15,000 people to take part