Online Book: The Role of Churches and Religious Communities

The Role of Churches and Religious Communities in Sustainable Peace Building In Southeastern Europe

Under the auspices of:
Mr. Terry Davis
Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Prof. Jean François Collange
President of the Protestant Church of the Augsburg Confession of Alsace and Lorraine (ECAAL)
President of the Council of the Union of Protestant Churches of Alsace and Lorraine
President of the Conference of the Rhine Churches
President of the Conference of the Protestant Federation in France

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The round table “The role of churches and religious communities in sustainable peace building in Southeastern Europe” was organized by CIVIS – the Association of nongovernmental organizations in SEE, under the auspices of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr. Terry Davis and with the support of the Peace and Crises Management Foundation and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation office in Serbia, on June 20th 2008 in Strasbourg, in the Council of Europe.

The title of the round table itself left open possibilities to talk: what was the role of churches and religious communities in the past 18 years? What is their role today? How do the participants perceive the future, and therefore what are their fears and hopes? What should be, from their point of view, avoided, redressed or minimized? What future would we like to have and how to avoid only paying lip service to it? “Southeast Europe” is quite a euphemism for ‘Balkan’, in order to avoid its political connotation. Besides being a geographical term, ‘Balkan’ became a pejorative political term that nobody wants to identify with. In the recent history, through the series of tragic conflicts regressive for Europe at the end of the 20th century, the ‘Balkan’ confirmed its negative political reputation. Political conflicts turned into conflicts among nations, for which many are blameworthy but not equally, especially for intensifying these conflicts with the identification of national and religious preferences and justifying conflicts with the irreconcilability of existing cultures and civilizations.

For Europe this is not something new. Fifty years ago, with the still unhealed wounds of the horrible war, some people from the countries that were for years generators of conflicts on the European continent, tried to thoroughly change their destiny. What is new indeed is that they succeeded. And that gives us hope! Reasons for fears are present now more than ever. Events in the countries of the Former Yugoslavia have shown how these fears are factual and often undervalued; how something that was supposed to be a process of democratization can go catastrophically astray; how the myths about national superiority are jeopardizing, encouraged and used by unscrupulous politicians, and can get massive support and end in immense tragedies. This also belongs to a common European experience from which many have not learnt the lessons yet.

The organizer of this round table attended by priests of different religions and churches, is CIVIS, an association of nongovernmental organizations which are neither church nor religious communities. But they are organizations which plead for peace, which promote tolerance, which organize assistance for the jeopardized and, which for years, have worked on building good relations among countries in this part of Europe.

These values could be defined as universal law, as categorical imperative which could represent a common ground for cooperation, regardless of other differences of churches, religious communities and nongovernmental organizations, and independent individuals which share these moral positions. The firsthand goal of this round table is to talk about problems and to see how participants, priests of different churches, perceive them. One of the bottomless resources of these problems is the widespread inability to hear others. But the long-term goal is to increase, through these meetings and through the work of those participants in their own countries, the number of people and institutions which will promote those values in public and through their work.

Because, as it is known, for evil to win it is enough if good people do nothing; but for good to win it is necessary for a critical mass of people to act in public and with means suitable for the cause..

Prof. dr Zoran Pusić,
President of the CIVIS Association and the President of the Civic committee for human rights, Croatia

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