Thank you. I listened with great interest to contributions in both of these sessions

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Discussion 2

Mr Francesco Fiori MEP

Thank you. I listened with great interest to contributions in both of these sessions.

I have a question to all the speakers who took the floor: The 11 September has demonstrated very clearly from now on that there is a need to reform many of the rules which underpinned the economy international relations during the last century. The only really globalised factor in the world is religion. Each and every speaker mentioned changes under way in society under the challenges emerging from the events of 11 September. We talk in terms of a new world order - I hope that the term will be understood. I would like to ask the speakers, what they understand by that.

Prof Dr Grigorios Larentzakis

First of all I would like to react to the comments made about this dialogue with the Orthodox Church as well as for the future of Europe and what Dr Weninger said. It is true we know too little about each other. That is very important. Not only on specific theology but as well on the principles of Christianity in Europe and its Christian roots, we know too little. It would be useful to address that.

For of that reason I would like to repeat the proposal which I made last year at our meeting: We should study three documents more closely.

1. The political document of the European Union, the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

2. For the Orthodox Church we have an overall Orthodox document. It is called "The contribution of the Orthodox Churches to the realisation of peace, justice, freedom, brotherliness, love between peoples and also to eliminating racism and other forms of discrimination." These questions are all very closely related to the problems that we are facing since the 11 September.

3. Because they should not remain on a confessional level only, it is also very important that these questions should be looked at in conjunction with the Carta Ecumenica. I am happy to see that the Carta is of one the documents which is included in the seminar file.

I think at one of our next meetings we should perhaps look at and study one of these three basic documents and deal in that way with all of these issues.

After 11 September the questions we have to deal with, are related to the basic question of the dignity of the human person. It is important to link it up with our last meeting in Crete and establish conditions where people can live together in communities in peace and not just coexist.

It is important to mention these points. This question which has been brought up today, that in fact people have to learn to live together, and that it is not enough for us to dictate positive responses from outside, but that we also need to think about whether we are intervening to much from outside. Perhaps we have brought in a lot of these problems into the regions for various interests, economic or political.

One thing has been made quite clear since 11 September: Human beings are not almighty. No individual, no nation is almighty. We are fragile. It is important that we realise that we cannot rule the whole world from a central body. That is something which we have to take into account in our discussions of the 11 "September period".

Mrs Marietta Giannakou-Koutsikou MP

Thank you, Chairman. Let me thank you for this resumption of the dialogue which is a very positive project.

I am getting the impression that in what was said today about world system there is a great deal of organisational religion but very little Christianity. All this religious organising is often a matter of simple power structures. We have to realise here that we are talking about a dialogue, about basic underlying Christian values, values which are shared between religions. This is the special value of the dialogue we are having today. Human beings can be animals, wild animals, sometimes the wildest of all animals. I think, that it is only religion which can set limits on that wildness. Certainly in a globalised world we need open lines of dialogue, an ongoing dialogue, which will be based not more or less an amount of power of the churches, or on more or less organised influence because of these power structures. Not all churches have power structures. But on the bases of the ideals that they represent and the contribution that they can make to civil society, we dialogue with them.

I would like to refer particular to the contribution by His Excellence the Archbishop of the United States. Clearly there is an important role for his Church to play. It is very important first to look how on this side things can work. We need not just to dwell on interests, which are very often local interests, and which drag the churches along in their wake. It emerges that all religions, whatever they are, have some kind of basic values.

Mr Christian Rovsing MEP

I would like to bring one subject up which has concerned me lot during the process which we have been through since the 11 September. That is the respect for the dignity of each person which has sometimes been violated by surveillance laws. It is like big brother is beginning to watch us in detail which is not very pleasant.

If I look through the laws which have been passed in my own country, reluctantly, and in the European Union in general. These laws were enacted too fast. We did not think enough. I am sure that we will have to revise them. But the intrusion into private life in the way we are doing, by electronic means and other things, generates disrespect for the person. The individual will come to feel that he is not respected, and that his ways of expression might be limited by self-control which is certainly not in the interest of our world. It is a serious problem because we want to catch the bad people.

But the costs could be very great, if we restrict by these efforts the creativity, the imagination and the will to be a little bit different, in order to promote things which are needed in order not to accept, as the Archbishop said, that we accept each other, but rather in order to integrate so that we might live together.

I think this is an issue which deserves a lot of thinking. I am sure that we need to revise these laws. I have been a member of the Danish Security Council for Data Protection for 20 years. I feel that we have bent our constitution to a certain degree, at least in Denmark, and I believe also in other countries. We have to come out of it by living together, in community and not accepting that we live together as isolated persons.

Mr Jan van Laarhoven

Dear Mr President,

I want to touch on a point that has been mentioned by several speakers. They were talking about that the elimination of the grounds on which terrorism can grow. I would like to ask their opinion about an element which I think is important in this discussion. That is the responsibility of politicians and leaders on all levels to create a new awareness, to renew the awareness of common norms and values that should be present in societies of the 21st century. If in Holland youngsters go out and are beaten up without the police intervening, in other words violence is passively tolerated, this is an illustration that people do not know the meaning of words like dignity and respect anymore.

If on a Sunday in an ordinary football match the players of Ajax Amsterdam are associated which Judaism. If the public is calling them names and is offending them seriously without any interference by the authorities, then also this is showing a lack of respect and dignity.

I could manage to give more examples. What do you think about the role of governments and political leaders in creating a new awareness for norms and values of societies of today? They run away from that now because it is not their primary field. At least they think it is not. In my opinion it should be.

Mr Carlos Robles-Piquer

Thank you Mr Chairman.

My first question is to His Excellency the Minister of Bahrain, with my compliments for what he said and for the behaviour of his government and his King, which he shares with many other Muslim governments or countries.

For instance specially in the Jordanian Kingdom, the Prince Hassan. who recently has published a very lively book about the relations between Muslims and Christians in the world. But I am afraid that this is not a general situation in the Arab world, rather in the Muslim world. Because there are many places where there is resistance to acceptance of the other. I think, maybe one of the reasons why I would like to have his comment is because there is no body, there is no institution that establishes rules for all Muslims as is a case in general for Christian confessions, Catholic, Orthodox, even in the various Protestant religions. They have a body that usually establishes some rules for action and for behaviour.

I remember with great astonishment when the Prime Minister of Morocco, who of course is a Muslim attended an ecumenical service at the Catholic Cathedral in Rabat. There was a statement by the Mullahs of Morocco against his presence at that ceremony, which really astonished a lot of people outside of Morocco, because nobody could imagine such a reaction could be proposed.

I would like to know if in his opinion there is the possibility of setting up a kind of institution, a kind of council that could act in such a dramatic problem, like the one we have passed through one year ago.

I also like to give a question to Mr Ciorbea, not directly linked to the second about Romania but to do with a neighbouring country. An behalf of the Robert-Schuman-Foundation I was fortunate to visit Moldava. It seems to me that the situation there is very irregular. Basic freedoms amongst our Moldavan friends are simply not being respected by the government. As we are here, given that all of have historic links which are familiar for the Romanians and Moldavans whom I met, they considered themselves as Romanians rather than Moldavans I think it would be very useful to hear what the former Prime Minister Mr Ciorbea thinks about the situation in that Country.

Mgr Nöel Treanor

Thank you Mr Chairman.

There are many interesting questions one could raise after the introductory session and the session we have had just now. I simply limit my question to one: The 11 September has marked and will remain a significant moment in human history. The European Union is presently engaged in an historic process, namely that of the Convention on the future of Europe.

Do the events of the 11 September have any consequences for the work of the Convention or have they no consequences at all?

Specifically I am wondering, for example, does it have any consequences or implications for a new kind of thinking about a reference to religious traditions and their role in the kind of new Europe, the European society we are trying to create? Does it have any implications for something which our Chairman touched apon in his introductory talk when he spoke about the question for examining e.g., when he spoke about religious syllabus? Who examines these? Can they simply be left to the state? Is there a need for some kind of new co-operative law between state and religious traditions? Similarly Universities train academics. They do not necessarily train preachers. Must the churches and religions open up their theology or religious goals to some kind of dialogue with the state about what has been taught for the information given there.

My question is: Do the events of 11 September require us to re-think the question of the inter-relationship between religion and state, church and state in the new year; and make some reference to futuristically in hope maybe for a constitution.

Mr Elmar Brok MEP

I will shortly answer the question about the religious relations to the contents:

I can say effectifly that the European Union is becoming more and more aware of its values and is giving it a form in a constitution that has two implementations:

1. The lower tolerance is emerging more and more clearly. That does not mean "laisser-faire". It does not mean negligence. It means that you stand up for your values. Only those who stand up for their values, for the Christian values in particular, will be taken seriously by the representatives of other religions.

2. In that sense we must stand up on behalf of tolerance and religious values and that must be one the tasks in developing the model of the European model.

Mr Wim van Velzen MEP

I have a question to you, Mr A Al Shoa'la: I am very interested to hear to what extent you share what Elmar Brok has said about basic values. Because he said there is not a fundamental difference between Muslim, Christians, and Jews. I am very interested if you realised what he did say.

HE Mr Abdulnabi A Al Shoa'la

I will start with that very interesting question.

In particularly the Prime Minister of Morocco attended one of the religious functions. There was a rejection from some of the Muslim religious leaders in Morocco. What did happen and will happen and happened before. But before we were not hearing about it. The more we go to democracy and an open society, the more we will hear, in that way that the small sound, which was before oppressed and did not come out, will come out now. It has nothing to do with religion.

A few years ago, in Bahrain itself, the speaker of the Consultative Council attended a function, a show of Indian classical dancing. Indian classical dancing is fairly dressed up not like the topless ones we know about. In spite of that he was heavily criticised for being in this job and attend an event with women dancing. Some thought that is not appropriate. Let them say that. We are in democracy.

The same people in the same country - we had a congregation and a prayer on the 11 September for the victims where the whole hall was packed of Muslims, our leaders, thinkers, Indians, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and Jews (We have in Bahrain a real Jewish Community - we are the only country in that region having that.) - where we all got together. When the American President stood and said the prayers to the Jews, everybody said: Amin, which is the common term used by all of us.

I think, I would not be disturbed by this. You can also here from the other side make similar comments. That maybe has a relation to what Mr Weninger said about the integration of Muslims in Europe. I heard before - and nobody thought it was true - there are over 4 Million Muslims in Germany now. They have no place to bury their dead people. They have no Muslim cemetery there. I did not believe it. In fact I read it recently in the Economist. Now this has been looked with great appalling and sounds as being a problem.

I do not know how far this is right and how this will be handled, if it is true, and whether we can integrate people together. There are also some malpractices. If that is not right I would refer you to The Economist, which has the latest report on Muslims in Europe, and, their mission specifically. That has to have a replyif it is not right.

Some of the practices of the so called Muslims are not actually Muslim practices or customs. One of the fact which prevents disintegration of Indian Muslims, Pakistani Muslims, Bangladeshi Muslims is he fact that they all go for arranged marriages. They fly husband and wives to them to get married in Europe rather than marrying one from the European society. That is not a Muslim practise. That is an Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi custom which the Hindus do as well.

When it comes to being together and the comments I have from this eminent speaker. He is absolutely right. The feeling we in the Middle East - I can assure you of the Muslim side, because it is much easier for them to admit that they recognise, not many people in Europe know this, that all the prophets in the bible are their prophets. Jesus is their prophet. Whenever we mention Jesus, we say "peace be upon him" as when we mention Prophet Mohammed. Whenever we mention Moses, we say "peace be upon him "as much as we say to Prophet Mohammed. Abraham is our grandfather, the same patriarch for everyone. He is more revered as one of our own saints. That Virgin Mary is mentioned in the Koran itself and not the wife nor the daughter of the prophet are mentioned anywhere. The common religious heritage is there.

The Muslim side criticises the other: Why do they not recognise our side? They should be told that the whole basis is different. If they recognise their prophet it will mean they will not recognise their own religion. They should understand the fact that the Muslims recognise the prophets. The common ground they have with Christians and Jews does not mean that the others should accept it. We have got to live with that. I hope I am communicating it properly. We have got to highlight this common ground we have between us.

I am strongly of the opinion that the whole problem is not religious in the Middle East. It is a matter of effects and of morality. People have been suffering from sacrificing dignity by themselves. It is the lack of democracy. It is the tyranny, the dictatorship which creates an attitude of agitation and of fight among ourselves and of things around us.

What is happening I think, the trend is changing. What is happening in Bahrain, as well in Jordan, in Morocco and in other countries - and those who are reluctant, there are many opposed to that change. I can assure you there are many people who are reluctant to that change, they will come under heavy pressure. If they do not respond now they will be forced to respond. People are taking interest in that. The media is helping a lot. The communication, the channels, the television which is in every house. In Saudi-Arabia there are much more channels than anywhere else in the world. There are 2 million dishes in Ryad alone bringing in all the television stations. People are changing. Ten years ago there were not many people raising the questions like those we hear now: When are you going to change? How are we going to change?

I am optimistic like many of the speakers said, we will see this changes quickly. Many will follow Bahrain.

Dr Michael Weninger

I think that most questions, at least as far as I am concerned, can be subsumed quite simply under the heading of the global system of churches, or the global systems of religions. I would subsume them under the idea of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue.

Ecumenism is, as we all know, a highly ambivalent process. Real progress has undoubtedly been made, and a huge amount has been achieved in recent years in particular. But there have also been some reverses. Even in ecumenism there is self-deception, with people sometimes thinking that it is just about clouds of incense and making pious speeches and showering each other with fine words. I myself have often witnessed these sorts of pseudo-ecumenical events. It is just self-deception, that is all.

It is an ambivalent phenomenon, but it is still both right and important, and huge progress is being made, which is why I say that we must continue our efforts with ecumenism and in particular increase dialogue between religions: a community of values, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, Charta Ecumenica. EU law too needs to be mentioned here, because of its religion-neutral approach. In my view the debate on this issue must continue. As a non-MEP and also as a keen observer I am extremely grateful to you. You are the opinion-leaders, you are the pioneers of a European community of values. It is here that the discussion must be continued and included in the work on the Convention, if possible.

Human dignity, both Christian and Jewish, is founded in the Bible in the fact that man was created in God’s image: God created men and women in His own image, and saw that it was good.

Human dignity is based on the fact that men and women were created in God’s image, on this and nothing else. There is no non-transcendental basis for human dignity.

This is a controversial subject. Perhaps there will be time for us to discuss it privately later today. We can talk about human rights, individual rights and collective rights, but human rights have a transcendental basis. In the end the problem of the multiplicity of Islam, the many different Muslim communities, is centred on two salient points, even in the Islam debate: freedom and order. The two are interlinked: freedom without order means anarchy, as we know, and order without freedom means dictatorship. This is why the interpretation of the Shari’ah and the Koran must start with these two points: what is the genuine revealed word and what has been added by interpretations throughout the course of history. In my view this would be a response to various aspects under discussion here.

Mrs Doris Pack MEP

I should like to reply to what Mr Fiori said.

The problem is that what happened on 11 September last year came as a shock to us all. After the events, Jack Lang, the Culture Minister of the secular French State, as he always refers to himself, even went so far as to demand that religious education should now be reintroduced in all State schools, having earlier been abolished. It is a principle of the secular French State that there should be no religious education in schools. Now Jack Lang has said – and I was very surprised to hear it – that it must be reintroduced. He had obviously realised something that was also clear from what you said, that if we ourselves do not have Christian conviction, if we do not take this conviction to other people and live it, we cannot take part in discussions with other religions, and particularly not with Islam, which has very strong convictions. If we are not strong in our convictions, we will never convince anyone.

Let me give you a ludicrous example. When there was a change of government in Germany in 1998, I wanted to take a Catholic bishop from Bosnia to the Federal Chancellor’s office in the spring in order to sort something out. I had an appointment with the then Chancellor’s adviser, Mr Steiner, and he told me ‘Mrs Pack, in future religion will have no further influence or interest here.’ In the office of the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.

What happened on 11 September last year? Who decided that the churches were a good idea after all? The government was no longer in Bonn, it was in Berlin, but suddenly the churches were all in demand, because it had suddenly occurred to an atheist, as the Federal Chancellor describes himself, that without the main religious communities and their persuasive powers there is no way to take action against what happened to us on 11 September.

I am pessimistic about what Mr Treanor asked. I do not think that the shock was so great that we will end up with more in the Convention than we already have in the Charter of Fundamental Rights. I have not been to the Convention, but I have been told how difficult it has been to make any reference to religious roots. Larousse was consulted because they could not manage with the French. It is a very big problem, and we still have not solved it even now. It was a shock to us all, but as we know shock does not last very long. I do not think that we will achieve more in the Convention than we already have in the Charter of Fundamental Rights. A lot more people would need to remember that they can only hold discussions with the Islamic world if they think about its origins.

The Islamic world is one thing. The Shari’ah is another. Next week in Parliament we will again be debating the stoning of the young woman in Nigeria. If this sort of thing keeps on happening I do not know how we are to launch a dialogue which you say will be almost impossible to establish. I think we all need to consider how to set about this. Suffering is about to spread through all these Islamic countries. Similar things are happening in many other countries, not just Nigeria, and we cannot simply tolerate it.

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