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19227Dialogue and peace- Patriarch Bartholomew

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    Feb 9, 2014
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      Dialogue and peace
      Patriarch Bartholomew

      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.

      Isolation, agression

      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.