Bei dem Treffen von 65 Religionsführern in Moskau hat der Vorsitzende des Rates der EKD, Bischof Wolfgang Huber, die Konfessionen und Religionsgemeinschaften zu gegenseitigem Respekt aufgerufen. Der „world summit of religious leaders“ im Vorfeld des G 8-Gipfels könne zur Botschaft des Friedens werden, wenn auch die Religionen untereinander sich in Frieden und mit allem gebotenen Respekt begegnen. Als Christ begrüße er, dass die in Moskau vertretenen Weltreligionen wie Christentum, Islam, Judentum und Buddhismus gemeinsam zum Frieden aufrufen, denn Christus segne alle Friedensstifter.
Nachfolgend die Stellungnahme des Ratsvorsitzenden, Bischof Wolfgang Huber, im englischen Original-Wortlaut:
Bishop Dr. Wolfgang Huber
Chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany
Bishop of Berlin
Statement for the Summit of Religious Leaders
Moscow, July 3 – 5, 2006
First of all I join all those who have already expressed our common and sincere gratitude to His Holiness, Patriarch Alexej II., and to the Interreligious Council of Russia for the invitation to this summit and for the initiative of organizing it. Let me highlight very briefly my most urgent concerns at this very specific historical moment.
We live in a globalized world. Decisions in one part of the world have immediate implications for other parts. The fact that economy today is globalized urges the nations to find ways to deal with the new challenges as well as with the new dangers included in the process of globalization.
Globalization is not only an economic phenomenon. It has many facets. Globalization allows to organize in a couple of days a worldwide action of charity for the victims of a natural disaster like the Tsunami of 2004. But it also allows to organize hate internationally and to spread out it very quickly. International trade is an instrument to promote wealth and to create jobs. But economic power can also be used in an egoistic manner which spreads poverty and injustice. Whoever wants to discern the signs of our time has to be aware of both sides: the opportunities and the dangers of our planets development at the beginning of the 21. century.
The great religions take part in those processes. We have in common the experience that even religion can be used for good or for bad purposes. Religion can be used in order to proclaim the glory of God and to promote the dignity of every human being. But the name of God can also be misused and human beings can be mistreated in the name of a religion. Religion can foster peace and justice. But it can also be misunderstood as instrument of hate and conflict. In a globalized world also the interaction of religions is increasing. And the awareness for the role of religion is growing. Therefore it is the historical duty of world religions to explain the common understanding of their task and to explore the ways in which they can deal constructively with their respective differences.
We can summarize our common concern with the key word ‘peace’. As a representative of a Christian church I feel a special responsibility in this respect. Because we as Christians confess Christ, who blessed the peacemakers, as our Lord. But it is my hope that this summit will express a common commitment of us as religious leaders for peace.
The overall task to preserve or to establish peace includes many different aspects, of which I would like to emphasize only a few here, which seem to me especially important for our meeting.
In Christian churches I observe a growing convergence in the conviction, that the peace needed for our time is a just peace. It has to provide an equal access to resources and opportunities. It has to be a peace guided by the rule of law. It can rely on the means of military violence only as a last resort. The intervention in favour of groups who are not able to defend their basic rights themselves – a task which attracts in our days growing awareness – has primarily to use other means than the means of violence. But violence is one of the big issues of difference in our time. The lines of conflict in the moral judgement on the use of violence run even through the different religious communities of today. The actual situation in Israel/Palestine shows the necessity of a common call of religions for peace and reconciliation.
Peace needs respect for personal freedom as well as respect for personal responsibility. Therefore the protection of human rights and among them the necessary respect for religious freedom stay at the center of actual disputes. Religious freedom includes the respect for religious convictions, feelings and practices. But this respect cannot be promoted in an atmosphere of hate and violence. What is needed is a process in which Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and other religions get to know each other better, instead of judging each other too quickly. That is for me the lesson which has to be learned from the international disputes on the case of caricatures in a Danish newspaper earlier this year.
If we want to live together in one world, we need an attitude of mutual respect. Wherever this respect is denied, peace in the world and the living together are put at risk. The concept of mutual respect should lead to a new way of cooperation between religious communities, media, education, sciences, civil society and political authorities.
Mutual respect includes tolerance. But tolerance may not lead to or support a general relativism. Everybody needs clarity in his or her own convictions, in order to respect others with their convictions. But the basis for this is, that we keep the preconditions for such tolerance, namely respect for a person’s dignity and freedom and resistance to the use of or the threat with violence. This means, that there is no tolerance for intolerance.
The way in which religions behave towards each other and how they shape their dialogues, will be of great importance for the question whether our world is able to address its problems peacefully or whether it will end in chaos.
Freedom of conscience and freedom of religion stay closely together. If people cannot practise their religion freely, they are hurt in their most inner freedom. Faith – and this we learnt in the history of Christianity against many opposite attitudes – requires such free selfdetermination. But the respect for human dignity calls also for the guarantee of religious freedom by the state. It is a misunderstanding though, if religious freedom is understood only as freedom from religion. It is first of all freedom for religion.
Religious freedom has also a corporative aspect. Religious practice is realised in community with others. Therefore also the practice of religion has to be free from impediments by the state under the condition that the respective religion accepts the rule of law itself. In our western experience the necessary precondition for that is that the state does not identify itself with one single religion, but allows his citizens to follow their own religious convictions. There was a time in Europe in which people who disagreed with the religious convictions of the majority had to leave their country. It is a widespread conviction that this is not compatible with basic human rights. There are therefore good religious reasons to expect from the state religious neutrality. Therefore Christian churches which went through this experience do not only accept but promote the secular character of the political order. That does not mean that they proclaim the secularisation of personal life or the social order. In the contrary: as religious communities we should emphasize the worth of religious values for the common good. But we should avoid the use of political pressure in order to promote a certain religion and to hinder the adherents of other religions to listen to the voice of their conscience. In this way we could give a good example for the peaceful coexistence of people with different convictions. And that is what our world needs most.
Hannover / Moskau, 04. Juli 2006
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