29 January 2002
by George A. Papandreou
Minister for Foreign Affairs
The recent ecumenical inter-religious discussions between the three monotheistic religions not only focused efforts on atoning religious traditions from either traumatic experiences or past unsubstantiated superstitions; they also focused upon proposing a basic code of principles in order to promote an honest atmosphere of religious collaboration within contemporary, multicultural society on an international level. The systematic exploitation of historical models characterizing harmonious coexistence amongst believers of the three monotheistic religions - whether within a Christian or a Muslim governmental framework - promoted significant prospects regarding the contribution of religions, not only in composing a single basic code of principles, but also upon the widespread social appeal of these principles.
Indeed, the ecumenical inter-religious discussions established that any attitude towards isolating introversion feeds into the religious competition between the three monotheistic religions and is nourished just as much from the purposeful misinterpretations of the indoctrination or the institutional expressions of other religions, as from the pathology of their religious affairs. On the contrary, during intra-doctrinal discussions, proper or malfunctional indoctrination tactics or institutional expressions of the conferring religions are avoided, whilst at the same time, their historical affiliations are atoned from past superstitions or one-sided interpretations of past traumatic experiences.
The bilateral promotion of historical models where followers of all three monotheistic religions coexist in peace and harmony, either living within the same area or within the same federal entity, verifies a central point: that even when detached from national, political, or other objectives, either of these three religions alone, retains a wide array of potential within the inner depths of their traditions, with regard to both religious tolerance, and constructive collaboration aiming at the harmonious coexistence of their followers. Their reference to a common origin regarding their indoctrination in addition to their prolonged coexistence within the same area not only promoted mutual respect, but also encouraged significant interaction within almost all sectors of art and intellect.
The huge significance of these facts is not restricted to their occurrence at some point in history, but rather lies within them bearing the authentic interpretation of different intra-doctrinal traditions for the purpose of serving the contemporary people. They most certainly represent models of peaceful and creative coexistence that restrain the extreme alternatives of occasional crises while also managing to operate as acceptable or binding models regarding religious relations within the global multicultural modern society. Indeed, a contemporary conglomeration of peoples, religions and cultures is not restricted to a single Christian or Muslim area in the East, as has been the case in the past; its expansion is practically global, thereby multiplying the responsibilities of spiritual leaders of the three monotheistic religions.
In our times, however, it is not only Muslim countries that are inhabited by Christians, which was the case till the beginning of the last century; significant Muslim communities of financial refugees have immigrated to Christian countries in the West as well as the East. In this sense, any local conflict with regard to religious matters will surely trigger chained reactions extending over an international level, which usually exhibit unpredictable repercussions, concerning not only peace, but also the very religious communities. A typical example regards the global consequences of the criminal terrorist blow at the Twin Towers of New York, which some analysts attempt to misinterpret as a conflict between religions or cultures. Were such an interpretation to be accepted, the consequences would then be disastrous, not just in regards to world peace, but also for the religions themselves, which shall pay the dearest price without even bearing responsibility for the criminal acts.
It is therefore evident that today, more than ever, an intra-doctrinal discussion is necessary in order to enhance peace by allowing religion to assume a role. Religion maintains the ability to inspire mutual responsibility for the harmonious coexistence of the people of the world to communities inhabited by their followers: it is what their doctrine claims, history verifies, and followers are in desperate need of. Should the religious leaders rise to the occasion, then the exploitation of religion for purposes alien to their mission would be prevented, while specific proposals with regard to intra-doctrine interplay would be promoted. It is through intra-doctrinal conferring that such a prospect could evolve; and it will most definitely be supported by not only international institutions, but also political and intellectual leaders worldwide, which shall be called to contribute to the elimination of modern inequalities and conflicts in their way.
During the summit of representatives of religious leaders, which took place recently in Brussels, the selection of the subject regarding historical peaceful coexistence models of the three monotheistic religions, connotes the mutual acceptance of certain fundamental principles, which have prevailed throughout periods of peaceful coexistence. Some of these fundamental principles are listed below:
1. Honest and consistent respect of another through the particularity of his/her religious tradition, which impedes the emergence of unwholesome phenomena of religious competition or religious intolerance.
Respect of another also signifies respect for the particularity of one’s religious belief, especially concerning a religious minority within a heterogeneous, in terms of religion, social environment.
2. The establishment of a balanced and objective institutional framework that describes freedom of religion in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the international organizations declaration on human rights, which shall thereby determine the various religious traditions as a progressing factor and not as a cause for conflict within a multicultural community as the 21st century society is formulated.
3. The promotion of peaceful coexisting and honest collaboration in all religious traditions, in theory and in practice, which may be achieved through a conscientious and perspicacious initiative by religious leaders, since the bottom line is that religious conflicts only hurt religion itself as well as its credibility within society.
4. Use of the educational system to cultivate the “culture of peaceful coexistence” between followers of all religions, rather than dwell on the past tendencies towards religious competition and conflicting relations. This in turn shall clarify the coordination of the new generation regarding their apprehension of their religious leaders as well as to avoid the thriving of parasitical phenomena concerning religious fanaticism or intolerance.
5. The exploitation of spiritual leadership for all religions and utilization of the mass media in order to promote the value of peaceful coexistence amongst followers of all religions, and to highlight the fundamental freedoms and institutional rights, not only on a local level, but also from an international perspective following the progress of globalization, regardless of whatever its evaluation may be, it is a new reality for the world.
George A. Papandreou