Source: Basilica News Agency
October 22, 2015
At the initiative of Mr Nikos Kotzias, the Greek Minister for Foreign Affairs, the international conference entitled “Religious and Cultural Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence in the Middle-East” ran in Athens from October 18 to 20, 2015.
The conference was attended by:
- His Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople;
- His Beatitude Theodoros II, Patriarch of Alexandria;
- His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch;
- His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem;
- His Beatitude Ieronymos II, Archbishop of Athens and all Greece;
- His Beatitude Anastasios, Archbishop of Tirana and all Albania;
- His Beatitude Chrysostomos II, Archbishop of Cyprus;
- His Eminence Demetrius, Archbishop of America;
- His Eminence Hilarion, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk (Patriarchate of Moscow);
- Representatives of Christian Churches, religious leaders, personalities of the Muslim and Jewish world;
- Political and academic representatives from 55 countries.
The conference was opened on Monday, October 19 by His Excellency Prokopis Pavlopoulos, President of the Hellenic Republic, who referred to the importance of the conference, especially in the period of crisis in the Middle-East and in the entire world.
The Greek Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. Nikos Kotzias denounced extremism in the Middle-East, which, under the cloak of religion and power moves toward a systematic destruction of cultural heritage and crimes against humanity.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew addressed an invitation to all religious leaders to contribute to the creation of a common communication channel in order to confront religious violence and fanaticism. He also underlined the support offered by the Church of Constantinople in order to promote the interreligious and interChristian dialogue. Nevertheless, he emphasized the need to restore a climate of harmonious and sustainable coexistence of the monotheistic religions in Middle-East.
Next, Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria took the floor referring to the historical responsibility of Europe and America towards Africa and the Middle-East in the effort to establish peace, substantiate religious freedom and cultural pluralism, promote the values of human freedom and of a free religious conscience, and fight against illegal proselytism.
Patriarch John of Antioch presented the situation in Syria and Lebanon, as well as in other areas under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Antioch. His Beatitude did not conceal his sorrow regarding the silence and the indifference of the international community about the kidnapping of the two Syrian bishops: Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo, brother of the patriarch, and the Jacobite Syrian Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim, sending a request to the international community to get involved in the immediate release of the two bishops who were kidnapped about three years ago.
Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem described the difficult situation in the Middle-East that threatens the identity and sustainability of the countries in the area. His Beatitude expressed his gratitude for the initiative of organizing this international conference, also considering the urgent need to solve the refugee and immigrant problem.
Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens referred to the cases of dead refugees, some of whom were children, and sent to the European authorities a request to end the refugee issue.
“I take full responsibility for every human who ran away, because I haven’t done all I was supposed to do as a spiritual shepherd. We are all called today to speak less and act more, to take more substantial initiatives”, His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos said.
Archbishop Anastasios of Albania mentioned the fact that “there exists a general responsibility of the great powers for the crisis in the Middle-East: promoting decisions for violent changes of leadership and regimes; the supplying of weapons; apathy to collateral damage; and the millions of innocent victims and huge waves of refugees; pollution of the environment and destruction of rare monuments of culture. It is time for everyone to shake off their lethargy and take effective action in order to cease the military conflicts and terrible bloodshed.”
Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus made the following remarks: “I am sorry to observe that democratic Europe and America, while they pose as protectors of human rights, in this particular case they financed and armed the extremists, especially in Syria, and watch the situation from a distance with apathy, which is unacceptable. And all this is unfortunately happening in the name of democratic powers.
As Primate of the Church of Cyprus, I lift up a cry of protest for the abominable and unacceptable persecution of minorities, both Muslims and Christians from Syria and other Middle-East countries. And from the depths of my soul, I appeal to the powerful leaders of the earth to exercise their influence in order to peacefully solve disputes, to achieve a creative collaboration for the common benefit and the respect towards religious freedom and human rights for the peoples of the Middle-East.”