*by Metropolitan of Nea Ionia, Filadelfeia, Irakleio, and Chalkidona
It is not rare in human history when a great war or a historical redeployment of forces and policies are concealed under a “religious cloak”.
It is not rare when religious roots and references are considered as the cause of the emergence of social issues and several political developments.
The issues of religious hatred, violence, intolerance and fanaticism that we are witnessing these days prove the above ascertainment and views. It is indeed unprecedented for the European continent, the continent of democracy, Christian faith and Roman law to create the conditions in order to launch a religious war. It is a conflict that can generate a widespread increase in the dynamics of the situation that could have serious consequences and mark the beginning of war and suffering.
It is clear that the Treaty of Lisbon cannot inspire member states to pursue the desired political integration, a unified social policy and to reach a multicultural common ground of values and principles. It cannot inspire them to reach a common ground of social prosperity and peace, which has been extensively discussed in the past. Europe has been slow to understand the challenge and danger of a lack of coordinated immigration and refugee policy. It has not been able to develop to this very day “antibodies” that would help us to better understand the true European identity. It is an identity based on the above three founding pillars in accordance with the historical, linguistic, cultural and religious tradition of each member state of the European Union. It is an identity that reinforces, on the one hand, the concept of coexistence, while at the same time strikes the right balance between the principles for our peaceful course, the progress and the understanding of different settings. Those different settings should not scare us. However, it should not be a pretext so as to forget Europe’s long history.
We need new blood, but at the same time, we need integration processes that will respect the European and Christian ideals. Those who believe that the above view is one-sided, I must recall that the values of coexistence and integration have been applied in Christian settings. However, even in this case, there are also shocking exceptions that prove the rule. Christian teaching is the best way to realise the European ideal. We learn to live with each other, to love each other, to heal each other’s weaknesses through the messages of the Gospel which we apply in practice. This is by no means proselytism.
The rhetoric of hatred, the discrediting of Christian churches and monuments by our neighbouring country, Turkey, has caused and continues to cause sadness, concern and indignation. We all wonder with a sigh the movements of President Erdoğan who is probably ambitious (?) to lead a theocratic, neo-Islamic model which will be cut off from the rest of the world and, in most cases, from Islam itself. The reactions and implications of this policy are well known.
But the question arises: is this what we call Islam after all? Is it a war-mongering religion? Obviously not. This would, after all, be unjust to the enormous – timeless – effort of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the current Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to build a solid bridge of approach and dialogue of peoples and cultures. There is no room for further analysis. It is an opportunity to finally understand the role and stance of religions in the peaceful path to integration, to the good of coexistence, to the acceptance of otherness as a means of a more correct understanding of our fellow humans. May the latest horrific and reprehensible events in France, the unjust blood of so many innocent people, awaken Western civilisation from the oblivion and rage that exists. This is the purpose of this article. So that the drum rolls stop! However, it is not a starting point for war, but a cry of desperation for a change of policies, for a change in the way of thinking, for a change of the European construction.
And I would also like to make a wish: to never hear the drums of war in our homeland. We can make it!
* The article was originally published in the newspaper “Kathimerini”