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Kirill (Gundyaev), patr. Human diversity and global integration (Address to the opening session of the European Council of Religious Leaders, Oslo, November 11-12, 2002)
AND GLOBAL INTEGRATION
Address to the opening session of the European Council of Religious
Leaders, Oslo November 11-12, 2002
Dear brothers and sisters, dear members of this august gathering! I cordially greet all those present at this first meeting of the European Council of Religious Leaders. I am deeply convinced that it is time to create, on the continent of Europe, an organization such as this council. The division of Europe into two warring ideological camps now belongs to the past. The twenty-first century does not look set to be the century of ideologies. Too much blood has been shed and too many resources wasted in the twentieth century in the name of ideologies. Humanity is unready, it seems, to repeat this dramatic experience. At the same time it is obvious that ideology has not exhausted its capacity to lead to conflicts and wars.
Contemporary humanity and human culture, in their great diversity, express the beauty and uniqueness of God’s creation, and can serve to fully disclose the internal potential He has placed in both individuals and peoples.
There are no two identical peoples, just as there are no two identical individuals. Mankind today includes some of the great civilizational models. These models have much in common, but there are also differences, sometimes very significant. These differences lie not only in the outer forms, but also in values that have emerged under the influence, first of all, of religious factors, but also of the philosophical, political, economic and cultural factors that
determine the specificity of a particular civilizational model. Today, for many people it is obvious that the peaceful future of mankind depends largely on its ability to harmonize the interaction of the existing civilizational models within the context of globalization.
Talking about the specific features of the Eastern Christian civilization that arose under the influence of Orthodoxy, we must emphasize the importance for this civilization of the religious ideal, as it relates not only to the individual, but also to social life and the organization of family, towns and villages, nation and state. The Christian East also displays other characteristic traits: the unconditional primacy of the spiritual over the material, of self-sacrifice over the desire for worldly success, of the common interest over private concerns, of loyalty to truth and ideals over everyday advantage and earthly well-being.
In Russia, for example, considerable tension is caused in society by attempts to destroy this scale of values under the influence of non-traditional views on personal and public life, advocated primarily by the electronic media and advertising, as well as the growth of consumerism and individualism.
Many of the values inherent in the Eastern Christian civilization also exist in other civilizational models that have emerged under the decisive influence of the religious factor. Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist worlds have their own traditional systems of values, largely co-terminous with those of Eastern Christianity.
In the Western world, a special civilizational standard would appear to have established itself as the outcome of a philosophical and socio-political development that began during the Renaissance and the Reformation and continued during the Age of Enlightenment and the European revolutions. The basis of this standard is found in the so-called liberal principles which enunciate individual freedom as the highest value. The entire social system is organized in such a way as to make for the fullest possible realization of individual rights and freedoms.
Since the establishment of international inter-governmental organizations, the axiological system which took shape in the context
ofWestern European and North American social development has formed the basis for the activities of such organizations, and later, the framework for the process of European integration.
It should be noted that the Soviet Union and the then ‘Eastern bloc’ did not really participate, at a philosophical level, in the development of the foundations of international cooperation. At that time Soviet diplomats pursued different goals, to exploit the system of the UN and other organizations to exercise political and, with it, ideological influence on other states, primarily those of the so-called ‘third world’.These diplomats could not, even if they had wanted to, have brought the values of the Eastern Christian tradition into the ideological debate. Such were the circumstances of the time. I am not sure that the diplomats of Muslim countries or of countries with dominant Buddhist cultures were at that time directed by their governments to supplement the ideological basis for international cooperation with the dominant values of the cultures they represented.The historical mistake was the absence at the time of dialogue between politicians and religious leaders who found themselves sidelined from the process of the establishing of inter-governmental organizations. It is important that, at least at the present stage of European integration, with the gradual inclusion of the countries of the former Eastern Europe, some of which belong to the Eastern Christian world and have a significant Muslim and Jewish presence, real dialogue be established and cultivated as far as possible.
This is important because, as mentioned above, it is the values of the Western civilizational model that provide the framework for European integration. So long as European integration is carried out within the boundaries of the Western cultural space, this circumstance is historically justified and sufficiently effective. However, for Europe to become a common home for those who belong to different cultural worlds, the philosophical basis for their integration should include the core values of these worlds. Historical experience clearly demonstrates the fragility of a multicultural, multireligious society whenever a particular cultural approach is given a monopoly position.
During the Soviet Union, we, Russian believers, already gathered experience of living in a mono-ideological society. In those days only the Church and cultural worlds were able to create their own space, free from spiritual diktat. And then the totalitarian system, for all its seeming strength and stability, collapsed. This points very strongly to the fundamental unsustainability of a mono-ideological system. Should we not say the same about the current trend towards a monopoly, that of the Western liberal civilizational standard, despite the existence of other standards followed by millions of people?
This trend is clearly visible, and not only in Europe. It also very obviously dominates also the process of globalization. Equally obvious is the monopoly of a single civilizational standard which is attempting to teach billions of people live to someone else’s rules - a truly perilous venture. In an environment where terrorism becomes an instrument of struggle, this dominance can have unpredictable consequences. For certain observers, many of the recent terrorist attacks are an expression of radical opposition to the emerging world order. We even fear a global conflict of civilizations and cultures. Of course, terrorism can never be justified on any account. Mankind must say an emphatic ‘no’ to any attempts to blackmail and place pressure that result in the death of innocent people. There is also the danger of double standards in the assessment of terrorist activities. People who take hostages and blow up homes in New York or the Middle East should not be qualified as terrorists while those who do the same in Moscow are described as freedom fighters.
We must also do everything possible to ensure that this difference of cultural standards and models is not exploited by those who call for terrorism in the name of a ‘holy’ struggle for faith and traditional ways of life. The civilizational diversity of the world should lead not to a power confrontation but to cooperation and mutual enrichment. It is important to find a mode of interaction of civilizational models which can ensure a peaceful and prosperous future for the planet.
Of course, no one is calling for the abandonment of the liberal values integrated into the cultures and legal systems of many countries. However, in my view, it is important to supplement these liberal standards with other cultural and philosophical systems, and to create a harmony between the two, not just with declarations of mutual friendship and respect but also through the reform of law and global governance.
We must recognize the equal rights of different cultural and ideological models. Otherwise, a new form of ideological imperialism will provoke even greater conflict than that seen during the colonial era.
We need to ensure that each nation is free to live in harmony with its own choice, with the international system respecting this choice and not trying to impose another. At the international level it is necessary to devise laws and decisions that are equally acceptable to different peoples and to different civilizational models.
The optimal situation here is one in which a liberal standard does not suppress national legislation, but rather promotes a diverse and free development of nations and societies in areas such as state- religion relations, education, culture and personal, family and community morality. In the event of a conflict for one or another other reason, preference should be given a referendum at national level (in this way society can decide freely on whether to legalize abortion). Before the referendum, all points of view should be represented in the mass media, without traditional attitudes being demeaned or trampled on, or having ideological labels glued to them.
Dear participants of the meeting, never, even in the most tense years of East-West relations, did the idea ever die of restoring European unity in doctrinal, cultural and even political terms. The idea of a united Europe, a comprehensive international union and even a common state in the European space has already existed for more than a thousand years.
But we must understand that the Eastern European countries do not want to blindly follow rules worked out once upon a time in the past by someone without their participation, with no account
taken of the vision of their residents, and to follow these rules today simply because they now govern life in materially prosperous Western countries.
Eastern Christian civilization, as any other, has created its own distinctive way of life. Its philosophy and its general format reflect the efforts of many generations of professing Orthodoxy people who have striven to build a personal and public life that reflects their religious and cultural traditions.
I am deeply convinced that the present social system needs to enable people to live and act according to the norms of their faith. For this reason it is wrong to limit the participation of the Church and other religions only to the discussion of issues relating to the problems of their legal status, inter-faith relations and the like. I bear witness that the representatives of our Church are ready to participate in the discussion of issues of European security, social work, ethics of the use of modern technologies, etc. A key task in our cooperation with European and international institutions should be creation of a multi-format mechanism for dialogue among civilizations.
Among the specific initiatives concerning the participation of religious leaders in the life of modern Europe I would mention the need for our Council to engage in systematic dialogue with the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Council of Europe, and other European and international structures.We should think about practical arrangements for such interaction, possibly in the form of establishing a permanent representative office of the European Council of Religious Leaders to the European Institutions.
Religious leaders have something to say to politicians. We are also willing to listen to them - to listen to in order to understand how we can best serve mankind and promote the peace and unity of the human family. I very much hope that our dialogue with the European structures of governance will become permanent and systematic, open and serious, to the benefit of the people of our continent.
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