Dialogue and peace- Patriarch Bartholomew
Dialogue and peace
This is the speech by Patriarch Bartholomew at the 17th Eurasian
Economic Summit in Istanbul.
It is once again an honor to address the Eurasian Economic Summit, which
is organized each year by the esteemed Marmara Group and is today
considering the topic of "Culture and Ecological Dialogue."
Centuries ago, a Christian mystic declared: "Acquire inward peace, and
thousands around you will find their peace." In some ways, then, the
dialogue for peace begins within. This in turn embraces a religious
dimension, which can never be separated from genuine peace, whether
locally or globally. As faith communities and religious leaders, we are
obliged constantly to remind people about the obligation and
responsibility to choose peace through dialogue.
Human conflict may well be inevitable in our world; but war and violence
are certainly not. If our age will be remembered at all, it may be
remembered for those who dedicated themselves to the cause of peace. We
must believe in and "pursue what makes for peace." (Rom. 14.19)
The pursuit, however, of dialogue and peace calls for a radical reversal
of what has become the normative way of survival in our world. It
demands a transformation of values that are deeply seeded in our hearts
and societies, hitherto determining our relationship with those who
challenge our worldview or threaten our lifestyle. Transformation in the
spiritual sense is our only hope of breaking the cycle of violence and
injustice. For, war and peace are systems, which are contradictory ways
of resolving problems and conflicts. Ultimately, they are choices.
This means that making peace is a matter of individual and institutional
choice, as well as of individual and institutional change. It begins
within and spreads outside to the local and in turn to the global. Thus,
peace requires a sense of inner conversion (metanoia) -- a change in
policies and practices. Peacemaking ultimately requires commitment,
courage and sacrifice. It demands of us a willingness to become people
and communities of transformation.
The various gatherings initiated or organized at the Ecumenical
Patriarchate over the last decades have proved crucial in order to
prepare the way for a more peaceful coexistence and closer cooperation
between the world's peoples. They serve to bring cultures together in a
searching encounter and assist religious believers to establish a more
meaningful form of communication with one another.
Such an interfaith dialogue draws people of diverse religious beliefs
and differing cultural backgrounds out of their isolation, preparing
them for a process of mutual respect, understanding and acceptance. It
is our unswerving conviction that when we truly desire this kind of
encounter and communication and our hearts sincerely seek these, then we
will somehow find ways to coexist in spite of differences in our faiths
and in our cultures.
In fact, historical conflicts between Christians and Muslims normally
have their roots in politics and not in religion itself. Speaking of an
inevitable and inexorable "clash of civilizations" is neither correct
nor valid, especially when such a theory posits religion as the
principal battleground on which such conflict is doomed to occur. It may
sometimes be the case that national leaders try to bring about isolation
and aggression between Christians and Muslims; or that politicians or
demagogues mobilize religions in order to reinforce fanaticism and
hostility among nations. However, this is not to be confused with the
true nature and purpose of religion.
Christians and Muslims have lived together, sharing the same
geographical region, in the context of the Byzantine and the Ottoman
Empires, usually with the consent or support of the political and
religious authorities of these two monotheistic religions. In Andalusia,
Spain, believers in Judaism, Christianity and Islam coexisted peacefully
for centuries. These historical models reveal possibilities in our own
world, which is shaped by pluralism and globalization.
It is overly simplistic to distinguish sharply between the cultures or
civilizations of "East" and "West," as if the two are unrelated or can
never converge in any meaningful or creative way. Moreover, it may be
helpful to recall a fact that is rarely acknowledged by historical
commentators and political scientists. As the Byzantine historian
Alexander Vasiliev (1867-1953) observes:
Perhaps the cultural influence of both the Byzantine Empire and Islam
may be noted in the origin and progress of the so-called Italian
Renaissance. Classical knowledge, which was carefully preserved by
Byzantium, and various branches of knowledge which were not only
preserved but also perfected by Arabs [and Ottomans] played an essential
role in the creation of the new cultural atmosphere . . . a connecting
link between ancient culture and our modern civilization. Here we have
an example of the cultural co-operation of the two most powerful and
fruitful forces of the Middle Ages – Byzantium and Islam.
Perhaps, then, it would be more appropriate to focus our imagination not
on some inevitable clash of civilizations, but on the mutual enrichment
that can occur between different, diverse and distinct cultures. This is
a hope expressed in a paradoxical way by a contemporary Turkish writer,
Turan Oflazoğlu (b. 1932): "What we need is to enrich ourselves with
those aspects of foreign culture, which are not congenial to our nature."
This is precisely why a dialogue, which acknowledges differences but
also suggests ways to negotiate differences, may prove helpful to map
out appropriate avenues of communication between cultures and nations.
It is the only way of discovering the peace that is within in order to
realize a peace that is local, which in turn materializes a peace that
proves truly global.