The 'Arab Spring' was at the heart of this year’s annual summit meeting of European faith leaders with the Presidents of the EU Institutions. This was the seventh high-level meeting which took place at the invitation of President José Manuel Barroso and was co-chaired by Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament and Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council.
Comparisons were made with the wave of freedom and democracy in central and eastern Europe in 1989, which led to the reunification of the Continent, European leaders are willing to take the momentum of the Arab Spring to establish peace, democracy and prosperity around the Mare Nostrum. On 8 March, the European Commission issued a series of proposals establishing a partnership for the southern Mediterranean. In this context, the EU institutions intend to join forces with all partners who share the same willingness to defend and promote the same universal values. “I strongly believe that these challenges cannot be met without the active contribution of religious communities” stated President Barroso.
Mr Buzek, President of the European Parliament, acknowledged that the revolutions in the Arab world were made by the people themselves expressing a deep call for Freedom and Justice. “These are not our revolutions, but these are our values” he stated, recalling the decisive role played by Churches in central Europe in fighting for Solidarity and Freedom 20 years ago.
Twenty senior representatives from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim religions as well as from the Buddhist communities answered the invitation and shared their experience and thoughts with the EU leaders.
Cardinal Marx, Vice President of COMECE emphasised that faith is a positive force, which invites and calls for a constructive shaping of the world. With a reminder that the limitation of power and violence is at the heart for democratic regimes, the Cardinal recalled that faith protects against fantasies of omnipotence. “The human being is free but not omnipotent. Therefore faith and religions from a Christian perspective represent a source for a free state order”
“Christians are the natural allies of all those who love freedom” stated Cardinal Nycz, the Archbishop of Warsaw. He particularly asked the EU institutions to stand for religious freedom in the southern Mediterranean, recalling that this fundamental right not only covers freedom of worship but, most of all, freedom of conscience.
COMECE President Mgr van Luyn regretted that the coexistence of different religious communities in the Middle-East and North Africa was often manipulated to set them against each other. “God wants us to be Christians in and for our Middle Eastern societies. This is our mission and vocation - to live as Christians and Muslims together.”
Referring to the project of the Order of the Dominicans to create an Open University in Bagdad, Mgr van Luyn recalled that Churches in the Middle East and North Africa are promoting similar projects of education, intercultural dialogue and citizenship, which, he trusts the European Commission will support and partner.