By Theodoros Theodorou
The religious influence on civil society shapes political actions and reactions without the need for the Church to seek political expression.
For example, the Institute for Foreign Affairs (www.fainst.eu) has dealt with issues of religious diplomacy. It has already organized three international conferences that studied the scope of the church diplomacy and also the importance, symbolism, spirituality, and diplomacy of Mount Athos. The fourth conference planned for the beginning of 2024 will focus on the role of the older Patriarchates and particular attention will be paid to the Patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem.
The religious pursuit or even the rejection of religious perceptions create a social dialogue that starts from the places of worship, in which the preacher of any religion analyzes the message of God. Preachers and believers engage in a spiritual and practical dialogue that shapes opinions, accepting the doctrine of each religion, which may in parts of society be considered obsolete, rigid, or even something that may be rejected. But social dialogue began with the establishment of religions and was confronted violently or through dialectics much later. Therefore, it influenced different religions from the moment people began to communicate. Pagans became Christians, Christians became Muslims, Russians, Slavs, Mongols, Huns, Goths, Ostrogoths converted to Christianity. Heresies and schisms were created in the world through social dialogue and theological pursuits. The ecumenical dimension of religion stands out throughout the world and does not only concern Orthodoxy.
The Ecumenical Councils of Orthodoxy have all the characteristics of diplomacy. Delegations of the Patriarchates meet in the places where the synods are held, recognizing that the Patriarch of Constantinople, who since the middle of the 5th century has been called and recognized as “Ecumenical” by the Orthodox world, has the exclusive right to invite the delegates. In accordance with diplomacy and general interreligious pursuit, a non-religious leader could perhaps challenge the title of the primate of Ecumenical Orthodoxy. However, no-one is entitled to expel him or make wars because they do not recognize the primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarch within the Orthodox world.
The fact that a layperson of another religion files a lawsuit against the religious leader of the Orthodox world points out a loophole within the legislation of the country that arbitrarily provides the legal framework to its citizens to challenge religious diversity but also any social diversity. This is deemed as a provocation against Ecumenical Orthodoxy. This matter goes far beyond the exhcange of views during religious dipomacy meetings. This is a serious matter of religious tolerance, as well as a fundamental human and minority right.
However, religious diplomacy does not stop interfering in international relations when it comes to social cohesion, mutual understanding and good neighbor relations. Interreligious dialogue is an essential aspect of contemporary transnational and public diplomacy.
In general, diplomacy is a unique option for the international community to avoid armed conflicts.
Culture, religion, economy, pilgrimage, tourism, that may be part of diplomacy, add qualitative cultural characteristics that make diplomacy more effective, as societies and leaderships of the states adhering to the UN system require.
Religious challenges entail harsh confrontation, whis is really dangerous for society cohesion and international understanding.
History shows that religious conflicts lead to extreme confrontations.
The interreligious dialogue and religious diplomacy, when they manage to overcome dogmatic contradictions, as the Catholic and Orthodox churches have achieved since 1965 with fraternal understanding, as well as the growing religious dialogue among the major religions, then religious reconciliation is promoted in societies through religious diplomacy. This contributes significantly to the creation of the necessary conditions for mutual understanding and the easing of international tensions.