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Berlin: Dialogue between the Council of Europe and religious communities

On 14 May 2024, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development (BMZ) hosted an international conference on How can interreligious engagement help to re-invigorate the European democracies? The meeting was organized by the Council of Europe, in the context of Liechtenstein’s Presidency of the Committee of Ministers.

Present at the event, Rev. Fr. Sorin Selaru, the Director of the Representation of the Orthodox Church to the European Institutions, emphasized the usefulness of promoting interfaith dialogue, as well as a structured dialogue between political institutions and religious communities, for the common good of European citizens. Faced with the challenges raised by the multiple rifts and polarizations in the public sphere, dialogue helps to promote understanding, mutual respect, cooperation and social cohesion. Religious education has an essential role to play in this sense, and it must be included or maintained in school curricula. It is a good antidote against a culture of fear and mistrust, which polarizes European society. Therefore, Fr. Selaru expressed his conviction that interreligious dialogue and dialogue between religious communities and political authorities bring hope in these difficult times for building a better European future together.

The conference was attended by high-level religious leaders from Europe. The opening remarks were delivered by the German Minister for Economic Co-operation and Development - Svenja Schulze; the German Government Commissioner for Freedom of Religion or Belief - Frank Schwabe; the Chair of the Ministers’ Deputies - Ambassador Domenik Wanger and by CoE Deputy Secretary General, Bjørn Berge. The keynote address has been delivered by Prof. Heiner Bielefeldt, from the University of Erlangen and former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

The inputs and debates throughout the conference focused on three main topics:

1.     What mutual efforts can be taken by religious leaders to help combat the democratic backsliding that we now see throughout Europe?

  1. Does the method and practice of interreligious exchange, based on dialogue and a spirit of compromise, have something to offer in an increasingly polarised democratic public sphere?

  2. How can interreligious dialogue contribute to the strengthening of a culture of democracy? And in what practical ways can interfaith engagement help to reinvigorate key democratic institutions at local, regional, and national levels?


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