Religion had time and again been misused to give some purported meaning to acts of violence, Chancellor Merkel said at the International Peace Meeting in Münster. She called on all religious groups to thus take a clear stand and stop religion being appropriated by those who ride roughshod over human dignity.
Especially Europe, which has grown ever closer following its devastating wars, should not put up with the many crises in the world, Merkel urged listeners. "The values and basic rights on which our communal life is based speak against that, and they do not cease to apply at Europe's borders, either".
Developments and decisions in other regions of our manifoldly interconnected world had an impact on our life in Europe, the Chancellor said. And vice versa, of course. That was why "we should and must understand ourselves even more as a global community and work together," the Chancellor said. Global issues could only be tackled by developing global solutions. Europe in particular was responsible, she said, for doing more and being a partner to its neighbouring continent of Africa.
In addition to improving economic conditions especially for private investments and supporting education and training that also meant promoting security and stability, Merkel said. "Where there is no security and a lack of economic prospects, where hopelessness reigns, people will seek a better life elsewhere." Out of necessity people then put their life in the hands of smugglers and unscrupulous human traffickers, she said.
"We must stem illegal migration to Europe which is driven by criminal gangs of smugglers and has already cost thousands of people their lives," Merkel urged listeners. At the same time it was important, she said, to create safe and legal ways for those in need of protection to come to Europe.
The Chancellor said that currently the most pressing issue was to stop illegal migration via Libya in two ways: First, by tackling the causes of refugee movements and, second, by creating legal migration routes instead of illegal ones "which have already cost many people their lives".
This year's international peace meeting has been organised by the Community of Sant'Egidio and the Dioceses of Münster and Osnabrück. It is taking place in Münster and Osnabrück, two cities associated with the Peace of Westphalia, from 10 to 12 September. This is the third time the peace meeting has been held in Germany. Chancellor Merkel previously took part in the international peace meeting in Munich in 2011.
The Chancellor had already announced in her weekly podcast that she was looking forward very much to the Sant'Egidio peace meeting: "I have close ties with the Community of Sant'Egidio, which is why I am taking part for the second time, and I admire and respect enormously the work that it does," she said.
Merkel said that she had the greatest respect for the work of the Community of Sant'Egidio, especially its development work and support for international peace and reconciliation processes. What was important, she said, was keeping the lines of communication open, continuing to work for peace and helping people on the ground. Angela Merkel said she was also glad that so many young people were inspired by the community's work and commitment.
The international peace meeting's opening ceremony was attended by more than 3,000 guests, including the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, and the President of the Republic of Niger, His Excellency Mahamadou Issoufou.
The Community of Sant'Egidio was founded in Rome in 1968. It currently has some 60,000 members in more than 70 countries. It has set itself the task of promoting dialogue between religions, focussing in particular on peace issues. Each year it goes on a pilgrimage to a different European city, organising peace meetings which are attended by representatives of all faiths.