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Bp Hiliarion: The Church – Europe dialogue

18 września 2005 | 11:51 | Ⓒ Ⓟ

The European Constitutional Treaty calls for an open, transparent and regular dialogue with churches and religious, as well as philosophical and non-confessional organizations (article I-52). It is important that, in spite ofFrench and Dutch ‘no’ to the Constitutional Treaty and uncertainty about its future destiny, the provision about the dialogue with the churches and religious organizations is retained and incorporated in any legislative document which may eventually replace the Constitutional Treaty. But why is this dialogue necessary? How should it be organized? What should be its purpose and subject? Who are the main partners in this dialogue? And what results can we expect from it?

1. The European intelectual discourse of today is characterized by the opposition of twa very different systems of values: one based on the anthropological theories inherited from the Age of Enlightenment, another based on a traditional religious world-outlook. This opposition is often characterised as a clash between liberal humanism based on scientific knowledge on the one hand, and ‘theologica1 and metaphysical speculations of the past’ on the other. In reality, however, we are
dealing here with twa very dissimilar versions of humanism: one deriving from atheistic convictions, another inspired by religion and drawing from spiritual values.
Re1igion, moreover, does not belong exclusively to the realm of the past: it is a vital spiritual rafce, inspiring millions of people at the present. The last decades of the twentieth century sawa religious revival of unprecedented scale in many regions of the world, notably in predominantly Catholic and Orthodox countries of Eastem Europe, su ch as Poland and Russia. The funeral ofPope John Paul II, which attracted
millions of people to Rome, demonstrated urbi et orbi the vitality of religion, its vigour and relevance. One would have to wark hard in order to convince those who attended this extraordinary funera1 or watched it on television that we are living in a ‘post-Christian’ epoch or that Europe has lost its religious roots.
2. One may therefore not speak about religious value system as outdated, outmoded and old- fashioned, as the one to be replaced by secular attitudes and norms. We are not dealing with the succession of value systems in their historical development: the question is rather about their opposition to one another, which sometimes leads to political, religious and armed conflicts. The dialogue between the twa sides is essential in order to prevent such conflicts through harmonising the twa value system s, which are destined to co-exist in the future. To propose onI y one value system as universal and having no altemative means to nourish the potential
explosiveness of today’s inter-cultural situation, in which atotal dictate of Western humanist ideology is often considered as a threat to those societies that are based on traditional religious norms. The most extreme example of such conflict is the recent outburst of terrorism, which cannot be understood without taking into account the reaction brought forth in the contemporary ‘non- Western’ world by the attempts of the West to impose its world-view and behavioural standards on it. We are used to hearing statements on how terrorism has neither nationality nor denomination, and
nabody doubts that unsolved problems of an ethnic or political nature are the main causes of terrorist acts. But it is impossible to deny the fact that the most aggressive perpetrators of modern terrorism are inspired by a religious paradigm, viewing their
acts as a response to the total hegemony of Western secularism.

3. Modem liberal humanists criticize religions for an aggressive potential which is supposedly ingrained it them, as well as for their alleged inability to cope with one another. (One of the main arguments against the inclusion of a reference to Christianity in the European Constitutional Treaty was precisely the fear to offend Moslems and to prevent Turkey fromjoining the EU.) In reality, however, alI major world religions have peaceful character and are well equipped for living together in harmony. In Europe, in particular, Christianity coexisted with Judaism and Islam for many centuries. What the religions have difficulties in coping with is the militant atheism and secularism, which poses a real challenge to their self-understanding. Utterly unacceptable for most religions is, for example, modem attempt to ban them from the pub lic sphere – from schools, universities, mass media, political and social life – and to redlice them to the realm of private devotion. This contradicts the missionary imperative of most religions, notably Christianity, whichbelieves thai it must have an ample space in the public sphere in order to promote its understanding of values, its spiritual and maral teaching.
4. The dialogue between religion and liberal humanism which we so desperately need is not about theology or religious beliefs. It is an anthropological dialogue, whose main subject is the destiny of hum anity. I am deeply convinced that churches and traditional religions can offer an anthropological paradigm which is absolutely essential for modem society. In the three monotheistic religions(Judaism, Chri sti anit y and Islam) this paradigm is based onthe notion of humans as being created by God, after His image and likeness. From there stem the ideas of the absolute ethical norm and of the divinely-inspired morallaw, as well as of the deviation from it, known as sin. These notions are alien to liberal humanism, with its stres s on the right of each individual to his or her own way of life, which extends insofar as it does not cause harm toothers.
5. There are many concrete examples of striking contradiction between modem secular and traditional religious positions on ethical issues. Religion, in particular, insists on the integrity of marriage, on the sinfulness of homosexual unions, on the
inadmissibility of artificial disruption.of human life, be it abortion, contraception, or euthanasia. Secularism, on the contrary, propagates ‘freedom of love’, struggles for the rights of sexual minorities, and advances the idea that human life can be interrupted artificially. If such and similar norms are declared universal and are imposed on the entire population ofthe European Union fully andunconditionally, we risk to create a Europe which will never become a true hafie for those millions of people whose value system and behavioural standards are religiously motivated.
6. Religious leaders are already involved in a dialogue with the European Institutions, but I believe that this dialogue musi be significantly broadened and better structured. From an unofficial dialogue whose participants are not mutually accountable, meeting from time to time without any further obligations, we must gradually move towards a more official platform for a dialogue in which the politicians and religious representatives will be placed on an equal footing. Only in this case will the dialogue of the EU with churches and religious organizations become truly open, transparent and regular.

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