Message on the Observance of the World Day of Prayer for Peace

 

October 27, 1986

 

To His Holiness the Pope, John Paul II, and to the International Religious Leaders gathered at Assisi, Italy, for the ``World Day of Prayer for Peace,'' October 27, 1986:

 

On behalf of the Government and people of the United States of America, I send warm wishes to the participants in the World Day of Prayer for Peace. Our prayers are with you for the success of this historic gathering. We must never lose sight of the divinity which has created mankind itself. I extend to you my heartfelt support and reiterate my personal commitment to the cause of peace.

 

In addition to our prayers, we must join together to take steps to ensure lasting peace. Man has created awesome weapons in this nuclear age of ours. It is my fervent goal and hope -- and that I know of all of you -- that we will some day no longer have to rely on nuclear weapons to deter aggression and assure world peace. To that end, the United States is now engaged in a serious and sustained effort to negotiate major reductions in levels of offensive nuclear weapons with the ultimate goal of eliminating these weapons from the face of the Earth. In addition, we are exploring the possibilities presented by new technologies to protect human lives from the threat of nuclear destruction through the use of strategic defenses -- which threaten no one. Such technologies offer the hope of placing deterrence of war on a safer and more stable basis. Is it not better to save lives than to avenge them?

 

In my meetings with General Secretary Gorbachev in Iceland, we made tremendous strides toward the goal of a safer and more stable world. The United States will do its full part in the negotiations in Geneva to build upon the progress which was achieved at Reykjavik.

 

As we seek the reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons, we must also address the serious threats and imbalances in conventional and chemical weapons. Wars fought with non-nuclear weapons, including chemical, are causing suffering and death in many parts of the world. We have proposed a global ban on these chemical weapons, and call on all civilized nations to join us in ridding the world of this menace.

 

Finally, we recall that true peace is more than the absence of war: it is the presence of justice and mutual respect and tolerance among the peoples of the world. Human rights and human freedom are its indispensable elements. For we know that governments at peace with their own people are not likely to threaten the peace of their neighbors.

 

Universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms should be a cornerstone of universal peace. Among the most cherished rights is that of all persons to practice their religion or belief, free of interference or persecution. Each of us should be able to seek, unhindered, a relationship with the divinity. I commend this historic meeting for its efforts to lead humanity toward a more tolerant, just, and peaceful world.

 

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