Strasbourg Conference “Inter-religious Dialogue on Religion and Peace, Religion and Human Rights"
Fr Sorin Selaru, Director of the Representation Office of the Romanian Patriarchate in Brussels, participated on May 2, 2022, to the International Conference “Inter-religious dialogue on religion and peace, religion and human rights”, held in Strasbourg (France) by the Council of Europe (CoE). The conference was also attended by diplomats accredited to the CoE, religious freedom experts, religious leaders, and CoE officials.
Over the years, the CoE has recognized the inter-religious dimension as an important element of intercultural dialogue and has encouraged religious communities to become actively involved in promoting human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in a diverse and multicultural Europe. Since 2000, the CoE has also participated in facilitating interreligious dialogue, first through a series of seminars organized by the Commissioner for the Human Rights (2000-2006), and then through an annual meeting on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue initiated by the Committee of Ministers (2008-2017).Unfortunately, since 2017 this dialogue has not been continued.
The purpose of the event on May 2, which took place under the Italian chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, was to relaunch the inter-religious dialogue within the Council of Europe in order to promote mutual knowledge and respect, reconciliation, peace and a greater awareness of diversity in the European society.
The Strasbourg conference was opened by Ambassador Michele Giacomelli, President of the Ministers’ Deputies Committee, and Deputy Secretary General Bjørn Berge, who also moderated the meeting. The opening speech was delivered by Heiner Bielefeldt, Professor at the University of Erlangen and former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. Fabio Petito, Director of the FoRB & Foreign Policy Initiative (University of Sussex), delivered the closing remarks on behalf of the Italian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the CoE. The participants had the opportunity to present their points of view by taking the floor during the debates on the revival of inter-religious dialogue within the CoE and on several points proposed by the CoE as a general basis for relaunching the dialogue: “The Strasbourg Principles for Inter-Religious Dialogue within the Council of Europe.” It is desired that these principles would underpin the organization’s future work in this area.
Fr Sorin Selaru, the representative of the Romanian Orthodox Church at the meeting, welcomed the CoE’s efforts to promote and support this important dialogue, because it fosters openness and cooperation for the common good of the European society in which we live today. In front of so many challenges, hardships, pandemics, wars, great sufferings and humiliations of human dignity facing our society today, Churches, religious communities, governments, and citizens are called to work together responsibly for the good of everyone.
Therefore, governments, international political organizations, which should be neutral towards the religious field, however, must encourage dialogue, be open to the needs of religious communities, dialogue and cooperate for the common good of society. The usefulness of the inter-religious dialogue organized by the CoE should be placed in this framework: it should not only be a platform for dialogue between different religious communities, but also a platform for dialogue between these communities and the CoE, where issues relevant for all stakeholders can be presented and debated. The representative of the Romanian Patriarchate gave an example of such an important issue today for religious communities in Europe, which affects the freedom of religious practice, namely, the issue of ritual slaughter which is today under study by the European Court of Human Rights.
Regarding the so-called “Strasbourg Principles on Interreligious Dialogue”, Fr Sorin Selaru asked for a clearer specification of the role of the CoE in this dialogue, which will have to be structured according to a specific methodology. If the goal is not only to relaunch, but above all to be consistent and effective in organizing interreligious dialogue, the CoE should develop a predictable framework, following the model of the EU Treatises-“an open, transparent and regular dialogue” (art. 17, 3 of TFEU). In general, the participants’ interventions, the exchange of views and the discussions during the event were very dynamic and useful for the future structuring of the interreligious dialogue organized by the CoE.