The Value of Inter-Religious Dialogue
Novosti) Speech by Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad,
chairman of the department of external religious relations of
the Moscow Patriarchate, at the Second Inter-religious Peacemaking
Forum in Moscow on March 2-3.
Many peoples with their own cultural
and religious traditions live in the Commonwealth of Independent
States. The break-up of the former multiethnic state, which aggravated
interethnic differences, confronted us with the need to find a
modus vivendi that could allow different ethnic groups, religions
and cultures to co-exist peacefully.
Where should we look for it? Some
say that the most successful example of interethnic dialogue and
cooperation is the experience of prospering non-CIS countries.
We study this experience with all due respect and largely use
it. However, should we rely on this alone?
The history of Western Europe is
littered with wars and conflicts. Although these are part of the
past, western European countries are still unable to settle arising
conflicts. Thus, the French government secured, contrary to the
will of many believers, a ban on wearing religious symbols in
public places: Muslim hidjabs, large Christian crosses, Jewish
skullcaps, Sikh turbans and so on. Is this not an act of despair
or an attempt to hide, by imposing bans, from reality where religion
is playing a more and more prominent social role?
In CIS countries, relations between
different religions, as well as between religions and secularism
are calmer. Indeed, we have passed through a bitter confrontation
between faith and atheism, which ended in civil peace. There have
been interethnic and political conflicts, but they have never
escalated into religious wars. The same is true of the conflict
in Chechnya, the gravest in recent years.
It is hard to imagine more turbulent
times in Russia than the early 20th century, when revolution swept
the country and a fratricidal war broke out, straining all class
and interethnic relations. However, Maxim Vinaver, editor of Berlin’s
Jewish Tribune, wrote in 1922: "The Orthodox Church as a
whole, as a unity of believers and, especially Orthodox believers,
has never shown with regard to the Jews either the desire to proselytise,
or sharp intolerance or zealous persecution. True Russian believers,
who are accustomed to a diversity of opinion in issues relating
to faith and who are inclined to look for such issues and explore
them, have not only reconciled themselves to the existence of
people professing other religions, but also understand and respect
them provided their faith is true and sincere".
We have our own efficient model of
peaceful co-existence, of settling differences in a worthy manner.
I think that this is due to our historical, spiritual and cultural
heritage. We, the inhabitants of the CIS, are united not only
by a common history, the common personal experience and common
experience of our peoples. We are united by largely similar spiritual
ideals and one of these is the ideal of humility.
Very little is said today about the
virtue of humility. However, humility is not voluntary mediocrity
the way secular conscience sometimes sees it, but a conscious
rejection of pride, in particular, of any attempt to build God’s
kingdom on Earth on our own, of haughty "social construction".
We humbly love the Creator and the beautiful world created by
Him. Relying on human forces alone is not our tradition.
The striving to create a single quasi-religion
and form "global ethics" is alien to us. We respect
and preserve the traditions of our peoples that stretch back for
centuries. Each of these peoples, each ethnic-cultural community
has the right to its own principles for building its social model.
No one may impose a different one on them, especially by force.
At present, opening borders, improving
international cooperation, the joint participation of countries
and peoples in global processes, are stimulating dialogue and
cooperation between religions. At the same time, for us, followers
of traditional religions, our attitude to integration processes
is determined by our duty to preserve and develop the unique nature
of the individual, family, people, the original spiritual traditions
of nations and ethnic groups. The possibility of losing our homeland’s
faith will never become an acceptable price for believers for
integration with anyone, which has been proved by history many
On the other hand, it is important
that the search for national identity and its protection should
not assume the forms of nationalism and xenophobia, which are
capable of leading to bloody conflicts. One should note the role
of inter-religious dialogue, which is important not only as a
means of settling potential misunderstandings and suspicions between
religious communities, but also as a means of jointly upholding
in secular conditions the spiritual and moral values proclaimed
by traditional religions, upholding the right to a religious way
of life, led both in private and in society.
The future of the global system lies
in the mutually respectful coexistence and cooperation of all
cultural models, not in the smelting furnace of civilisations
that destroy religious and other traditional values. It is important
that none of these models should claim the right to be called
universal and suppress others by political, economic or military
Will a system incorporating many
civilisations lead to the break-up of the family? No. But only
if mutual isolation and alienation are avoided. This is why integral
ethnic-cultural communities need dialogue. This dialogue should
not be aimed at mixing faiths or uniting them around secular ideas
of developing a world system, materialism or rationalism. We need
a dialogue which will allow each religious tradition to reveal
its potential in creating private, family and social life, in
building a lasting and just peace.
The CIS is a unique place in the
world where such dialogue is possible. I believe that CIS religious
leaders will make the most of this opportunity for the benefit
of their peoples and the rest of the world.