European religious leaders consult on societies in transition
Leaders of historic faith communities across Europe have gathered in Geneva to consider the role of inter-religious dialogue and cooperation in addressing social divisions and opportunities. On 13 May, the conference focused on a round-table symposium addressing the theme “Societies in Transition”.
The round-table event at the annual meeting of the European Council of Religious Leaders (ECRL) was supported this year by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and hosted by the World Council of Churches (WCC). The keynote address was given by Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC.
Tveit spoke on the spirituality of “pilgrimage” as people of goodwill band together to pursue justice and peace. He reflected on visits he made earlier this year to Iran and, this month, to South Sudan. Pilgrims and those they encounter on the journey make mutual commitments, he said: commitments of hospitality, time, resources, respect, trust and openness in listening to one another.
For religious leaders, said Tveit, pilgrimage also involves accompaniment. As an example, he spoke of those South Sudanese church leaders who are now in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to support the peace process for their country, and to engage with the leadership of opposing factions in seeking the way to reconciliation.
From left to right: The WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit with the ECRL general secretary Stein Villumstad
at the inter-religious round-table meeting in Geneva.
“This collaboration is not simply a gesture of convenience,” he continued, “It is rather a recognition that the shared journey binds us together.” In this act of accompaniment, the religious leaders are embracing their role as peacemakers.
“We are called to do holy work together – for justice and peace,” Tveit advised the ECRL annual meeting. “Therefore, we need to be able to move together.”
ECRL is one of the regional councils that make up the network Religions for Peace-International, a multi-religious coalition advancing action for peace, and coordinates its efforts with such organizations as the European Women of Faith Network, the European Interfaith Youth Network and national inter-religious organizations in 14 European countries.
Among other presenters at the Geneva symposium were ECRL moderator Thomas Wipf of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, presiding bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien of the Church of Norway, professor Silvio Ferrari of the University of Milan in Italy, Ariane Hentsch of the Geneva Interfaith Forum, as well as speakers from the Swiss federal department of foreign affairs, the European Commission, the OSCE and religious communities representing the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, the Hindu Forum of Europe and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Source: oikoumene.org (May 14, 2014)