Belgium: European Christian-Muslim Conference 

Source: FSSPX News


This conference took place in Brussels between October 20-23, under the aegis of the Council of European Bishops Conferences. It was within the framework of the European year of intercultural dialogue and also the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of the Rights of Man by the United Nations, and it enjoyed the financial support of the European Parliament of Strasbourg and Brussels. Organized by the Committee for Relations with Muslims in Europe (CRME), the conference was entitled “To be a citizen of Europe and a man of faith. Christians and Muslims as active partners in European societies”. The CRME is an ecumenical committee created in 1986 by the European Conference of Churches (KEK) and by the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe (CCEE), responsible for informing and assisting the Churches in Europe in their encounters with Islam and to enhance their relations with Muslims.

The conference brought together 45 Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox and Muslims from 16 European countries. Including those present were Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, archbishop of Bordeaux and vice-president of the European Bishops Conference (CCEE), Mgr. Jean-Luc Brunin, bishop of Ajaccio, Mgr. Peter Sudar, the auxiliary bishop of Sarajevo, the Imam Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini, vice-president of the Italian CO.RE. IS (Islamic Religious Community), Mustafa Ceric, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia Herzegovina, and the Imam Azzadine Gaci, religious expert for the Rhone Alps region of France.

Imam Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini presented the Muslim perspective, and Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, the Christian approach. After which the participants formed working groups to reflect on the following themes: “the role of religion in a secular society”, “the challenges facing Christian and Muslim communities” and “how to promote respect and mutual understanding through education?”.

In his allocution, Cardinal Ricard referred to the current context: religious pluralism, religious and philosophical neutrality of the State and democratic order. Secondly, he spoke of the domains in which Christians and Muslims were called upon to become partners: the defense of religious liberty and the freedom of conscience, refusal of exclusion , the promotion of the true service of man, dialogue of cultures and the global promotion of humanist values.

It is not about falling into the nostalgic formalism of the past or launching ourselves into an esperanto or a new age syncretism, which confuses the providential identifying characteristics of each religious doctrine and each traditional culture, said Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini. We have to enhance the value of the intellectual patrimony of the masters and the historic memory of the past in order to update this wisdom for the present, interpreting our role of witness to a sacred deposit and a social progress which is capable of making the most of both the conquests and errors of humanity.” And he stated: “To deny the visibility of religious symbols in public places in the name of a radical secularism which would confine religion to the private sphere and prevent the presence of denominational elements in contemporary European culture, are signs of anti-clerical extremism and a phobia of the sacred, which are very worrying.” He went on to explain that in Italy, something worse is happening. On the pretext of not harming the cultural sensitivity of foreign students, some teachers in state schools are proposing modifications to the Christmas story by telling their students fictional stories such as Peter Pan and Harry Potter. “As Muslims of Europe, we have expressed out utmost regret at the politics of secularism, which on the one hand, seeks to take advantage of the opportunity offered by immigration and multiculturalism to eliminate all historic symbolic and cultural reference to any religious character, and on the other hand, to try and create an alternative pedagogy by superimposing elements of fantasy or magic or linking it to phenomena which distort the sensibility with regard to authentic spirituality.”

A joint declaration was issued on October 23 at the end of the conference. “As Christians and Muslims, we declare that we are citizens and believers, and not citizens or believers. We are therefore called to work hand in hand with the State to which we belong, according to the most appropriate methods, without, for all that, becoming subordinates of the government . We say this because we are convinced that religious communities and the State must work together for the common good. This conviction flows from our sense of belonging not only to our respective denominations but also to the collective enterprise which we call citizenship. We believe that the unity and the diversity of our societies contribute to their enrichment and amelioration.”

 The participants reaffirmed “the importance of integration and freedom of conscience” for the harmony of communal life, recalling that “dialogue means speaking as much as listening” and “being committed to mutual understanding of each other.”

Furthermore, the Christian and Muslim religious leaders who took part, confirmed that “while respecting the principle of secularity, States must work side by side with religious associations and institutions, in order to enhance and promote the value of integration”, but not claiming that it corresponds with “assimilation or the negation of religious convictions.” The document condemns “all acts of violence committed in the name of religion” and recalls that “human rights are a shared value, which also includes freedom of religion.” Renewing their commitment to a “calm and profound dialogue”, the participants expressed a desire that “future generations live in peace and harmony, regardless of their different creeds, for the advancement of society.” (Sources: apic/ misna / kek-cec / cef)