Συμμετοχή σε Συνέδρια

2003 Rome

INTERFAITH DIALOGUE: A SOCIAL COHESION FACTOR IN EUROPE AND AN INSTUMENT OF PEACE IN THE MEDITERRANEAN REGION .

Rome October 30-31, 2003
Introductory Conference Remarks of His Grace Bishop ATHANASIOS of Achaia

  1. Firstly, may I thank and congratulate the organizers of this Conference, one offering political officials and religious representatives the opportunity to find themselves on common ground, where they can engage in promising dialogue. Problems confronting whichever society solutions to which contribute to the strengthening of its cohesion, cannot be solved without involvement of all organized providers, particularly Churches, given that (a) they have much experience in, and infrastructure for, effectual social intervention, (b) they have many members who endowed with special gifts given a particular situation, can, even on a volunteer basis, join the effort of disentangling a multiplicity of problems, and (c) they have articulated their desire that ways be found to uphold peace and justice for all, at all times.
  2. Fanaticism, and every extremist tendency within society, is an appendage at the very fringe of societal pursuit there where dialogue is absent, there where the hue and cry of the irrational are upheld and maintained. And, because of this, thus empowered become ignorance, disinformation, the taking advantage of people who invariably become part of the masses, and violence, which usually starts off as verbal attacks before ending up as terrorist acts that threaten the security if not the very life of others. Orthodoxy, through initiatives of all local Churches as is the case, as well, with the Church of Greece repeatedly has voiced that social peace and security constitute the common good, achievement of which rests on each and every such effort being made. Toward this end, it is significant for there to be ongoing dialogue and cooperation among all providers of the State and civil society, so that in each case, what is said functions as a result of knowledge, and what is done is coordinated to achieve results. Dialogue, knowledge, cooperation, and the building of trust beget social adeptness that can thwart the escalation of fanaticism.
  3. Terrorism is a global phenomenon dealt with on localized terms, through localized means. What is needed is a broadening of our approach to it & with the Oikoumenē itself being made its horizon. It is not enough to limit our concern, for example, to the region of the Mediterranean or the Balkans, because influences come to bear, and policy is formulated, not per terms of anything specifically geopolitical, but principally, and increasingly all the more, because of the givens and the parameters of globalization. With this conception, inter-faith dialogue takes religious representatives to a proper level: In other words, there is formulated an ecumenical movement, there takes place an exchange of ideas within a well-rounded understanding, while, at the same time, political participation in this dialogue, with its required obligations, can contribute to cutting-off isolated attempts at making good on shady intents. It is sufficient for such dialogue to have as a steady target cooperation and the building of trust, and not for it to degenerate into something decorative, somehow similar, say, to a sleeping pill. Dialogue s target cannot be to get medicated, but the actuation of healthy elements that will play their part in making life known, and that, in an even-handed manner.
  4. Dialogue among religions is engaged within the context of organized Conferences, informal and formal alike, that take place. With respect to the Orthodox Churches, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinopole, through its formal interreligious dialogue with Jews since 1977, and with Moslems since 1986, explicitly must be referenced here. Dialogue takes the form, indeed moreover, of social activity, with initiatives that spread across broader social strata, and which, over time, underscore messages of peace and solidarity. Regarding this last point, may I focus just a bit more, citing specific examples.
  5. In many and varied ways, the Church of Greece addresses social problems. It provides more than 190 welfare units. It maintains convalescent homes, facilities for the short- and long-term chronically ill, orphanages, psychiatric facilities, boarding homes, student dormitories, hospitals, nursery schools, child daycare centers, refugee assistance centers, assistance centers for the victims of drug abuse, battered women s shelters, an extended family assistance network of parenting schools, homes for unmarried mothers, provision of open medical care for all, assistance units for women victims of forced prostitution and trafficking, and a wide network of camping programs, and related units. The Archdiocese of Athens alone offers 2,500 meals daily, as well as other types of relief that, in total, reaches to 12,000,000 Euro annually. And all this without differentiating from among those who come forth to receive aid. It is the most substantive interface of humankind with humankind that, for Christians, manifests itself at the very heart of faith in the Bible and in Christ who is the God of love. The Church of Greece does not stop at increasing its effectiveness only at the local level. It extends its activities internationally, offering assistance to peoples undergoing great trials. Through its organization, which bears the appropriate name, Solidarity, it develops programs of direct aid to Albania, Kosovo, Romania, and Moldova. This organization sent hospital assistance to Afghanistan and continues to undergird the people of Iraq with shipments of medicines, clothes, food, blankets, and personal hygiene items.
  6. A special example of the local Church s contribution to, and within, society is the Diocese of Maroneia and Komotini, which is located in the region of Thrace, not far from the Greek-Turkish border, which has a significant co-populations of Christians and Moslems. Through its initiatives, the local Church systematically undertakes efforts to diffuse, which thwarts extreme elements from conveying their positions and causing incidents. Toward this end, it encourages various bodies to organize peace rallies, it distributes informative brochures and publications, it has formed a Coordinating Committee for Dialogue with participation of elected officials throughout the area, it informs the media that, in turn, appropriately shed light on such matters for its citizens. At the same time, may it be underscored that special sensitivity and attention are needed so that these attempts may have as their consistent aim the establishment of a firm foundation for normalized societal life, as is needed likewise respect for both law and the greater public social contract upon which freedom, security and justice can be built. Lest it not be forgotten, such activity runs the dangerous risk of being disparaged as opportune or favorable for vote pandering, if it is without breadth, patience and the timeframe necessary for a genuine program socially earmarked for peace and solidarity.
  7. At this point, I would like to refer specifically to the example of Cyprus, and to the need for a coordinated effort of building trust between the Moslem and Christian communities of an island that remains divided since 1974. I am certain that regular dialogue would contribute decisively to peace, where both sides would be able to express their pain and complaints, which could lead to taking specific measures that would stop, for example, the destruction being wrought upon Christian shrines in the Northern part of the island, or the trading of icons and articles of Christian art at international auctions.
  8. Finally, worth mentioning here is the example of the Orthodox Church of Albania, and, personally, that of His Beatitude Archbishop ANASTASIOS. For over ten years now, there is being created a state of affairs bespeaking mobilization of powers of peace, which constitutes a true historical watershed. Various religious communities journey together and coexist harmoniously, having overcome the fear and doubts that ruled ten years earlier. I refer, for instance, to the Diagnostic Center that, from the ground up, the Orthodox Church spearheaded, and that now annually admits some 6,000 Christians and Moslems alike, offering them high-level health care. Here, some time ago, the wife of the late Enver Hoxha once First Secretary of the Communist Party was treated and expressed her gratefulness for facilities and service above reproach. At two vocational institutions of the Orthodox Church, students are none other than Hoxha s son and grandchildren. Eight hundred students attend kindergarten and five hundred youth study at the secondary school level. It is hundreds of youth together with their parents who live harmoniously and, out of common bond, plan for the future of their country. There exists a support group for prisoners and their families. Daily, food is served to the economically disenfranchised. Visits to psychiatric hospitals and to the deaf are made on a daily basis. Also, there operates a mobile dental unit. Over the last ten years, all this was accomplished together with much else in quite a miraculous way. In each case the Orthodox Church of Albania demonstrates that it is attentive to needs that arise, that it does not delay in activating each and every capability at its disposal in order to play its part in the peaceful development of society.
  9. At both the local and global level, for the Orthodox Churches there remains the starting point indubitable that calls the Christian to tender genuine witness of faith to the necessity for justice, for peace to exist as much in the workplace as in the family, and, more broadly, in community. Above and beyond official pronouncements, unrelinquishable to be sure will remain the significance of the simple, unadulterated expression of faith that makes itself manifest in the life and works of men and women who, without deserting them, are sustained by ideals who advance values that for us are and will remain at once, global and Christian.
Βρίσκεστε εδώ: Αρχική δραστηριοτητες Συμμετοχή σε Συνέδρια 2003 Rome