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Kirill (Gundyaev), patr. Protecting dignity freedom and human rights. (Message at a meeting with the Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Moscow, October 13, 2010)
PROTECTING DIGNITY, FREEDOM
AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Message at a meeting with the Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly
of the Council of Europe, Moscow, October 13, 2010
The Russian Church has a long history of relations with the Council of Europe, but that relationship intensified when, in 2004, we opened a representative office of the Moscow Patriarchate in Strasbourg. Since then we have jointly undertaken a number of events in partnership. The basis of our cooperation is the mutual belief in the need to protect dignity, freedom and human rights.The Russian Orthodox Church has formulated a theological approach to these issues, and in 2008 we approved a document on the subject,23 which has also been translated and published in English.
The essence of our concern is that the values of freedom and human rights should be implemented within the framework of human moral responsibility. In this position, we are very close to the representatives of other monotheistic religions. As you know, every religion has a concept of sin. If a person lives in sin, he destroys himself and the world around him. If we say a person is free to live as he wants, including following the law of sin, we are simply stating a fact. I think that neither society nor religious organizations can say they are indifferent to a person’s choice. If man uses freedom for evil, human civilization will have no chance of survival.
23The reference is to the ‘Russian Orthodox Church's Basic Teaching on HumanDignity, Freedom and Rights’, as approved at the Council of Bishops of the RussianOrthodox Church on June 26, 2008.
I think this was well understood by those who created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, because that document introduces some restrictions on rights and freedoms, including on the grounds of morality. Unfortunately, modern interpretation of the Declaration somehow eliminates these moral restrictions. We see what happens, particularly in Western countries. Public spaces are filled with propaganda for immorality, consumerism and permissiveness. Some people lack any strategic vision, which is why they think all this is of no effect. In fact, this trend can be very dangerous for human society, because sin is evil and is incompatible with life ‘in a long-term perspective’. Life is possible only when there is more good than evil. The end of human history will come when evil triumphs over good on a global scale. That is why it is life- endangering for human civilization to ignore fundamental moral values.
Because the Council of Europe is an organization concerned with the promotion of human rights and freedoms, the Russian Church has deemed it necessary to enter into an active dialogue, in order to express its own perspective and, together with various members of Parliament and the representatives of other religious traditions, testify to the continued importance of moral standards for human life. We call these standards traditional values: virtue, family and the ability to sacrifice, without which it is impossible to protect one’s people, country and beliefs. Modern consumer civilization dismantles these values: People live to take but not to give.We therefore believe that promoting these traditional values and strengthening them is an extremely important part of human rights activity.
I note with satisfaction that the theme of traditional values is now a subject of discussion at many international forums, including within the United Nations. On October 10, 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, a seminar entitled ‘Promoting human rights through better understanding of traditional human values’ was held by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights at the recommendation of the U.N. Council on Human Rights.
Through you I would like to thank the PACE deputies for the face that, at the last session, very important steps were taken for the preservation of traditional moral values. Particularly, I would note the adoption of a resolution that recognises the right of medical doctors to refuse to perform abortions on the grounds of conscience.
You know, of course, that the world’s traditional religious communities are very critical about other decisions of the Council of Europe and in regard to certain acts of a number of national legislations. I am talking about the placing of homosexual relationships on the same level as traditional marriage. Of particular concern is the fact that today, in some countries, legislation supports the possibility of promotion of homosexual relationships. The Orthodox Church and the representatives of Judaism and Islam, as well as many other traditional religious communities, will never refuse to call a sin a sin. Today they represent the vast majority of the globe.
We can judge the seriousness of this problem by the example of Spain. In that country, the textbooks for secondary schools, which promote same-sex relations, caused active protests by 55,000 parents, some of whose applications will be considered by the European Court of Human Rights. I think that, in this context, it is important to take into account Protocol No. 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, where, in the second article, is established the obligation of the state to ‘respect the right of parents to ensure that education and teaching comply with their religious beliefs’.
I believe PACE is a unique place where one can discuss, with the involvement of civil society organizations and religious communities, those issues for which no consensus as yet exists. The Council of Europe has a mechanism of regular dialogue with representatives of religious organizations, thereby covering the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue. We really hope this mechanism will continue to function so that the position of the religious communities will be adequately represented in the PACE agenda.
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