At the initiative of Mr Nikos Kotzias, the Greek Minister for Foreign Affairs, from 18 to 20 October 2015, took place in Athens the International Conference entitled “Religious and Cultural Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence in the Middle-East”.
To this conference were invited:
- His Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople;
- His Beatitude Theodoros II, Patriarch of Alexandria;
- His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch;
- His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem;
- His Beatitude Ieronymos II, Archbishop of Athens and all Greece;
- His Beatitude Anastasios, Archbishop of Tirana and all Albania;
- His Beatitude Chrysostomos II, Archbishop of Cyprus;
- His Eminence Demetrius, Archbishop of America;
- His Eminence Hilarion, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk (Patriarchate of Moscow);
- Representatives of Christian Churches, religious leaders, personalities of the Muslim and Hebrew world;
- Political and academic representatives from 55 countries.
The works of the Conference were opened on Monday, 19 October 2015, by His Excellency Prokopis Pavlopoulos, President of the Hellenic Republic, who referred to the importance of the Conference held in Athens, especially in the period of crisis in the Middle-East and in the entire world.
The Greek Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Nikos Kotzias denounced the extremism in the Middle-East, which, under the cloak of religion and power draws to a systematic destruction of cultural heritage and to crimes against humanity.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew addressed an invitation to all religious leaders to contribute to the creation of a common communication channel in order to confront religious violence and fanaticism. He also underlined the support offered by the Church of Constantinople in order to promote the interreligious and interchristian dialogue. Nevertheless, he emphasized the need to restore a climate of harmonious and sustainable coexistence of the monotheistic religions in Middle-East.
Next, Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria took the floor referring to the historical responsibility of Europe and America towards Africa and Middle-East in the effort of establishing peace, of substantiating religious freedom and cultural pluralism, of promoting the values of human freedom and of the free religious conscience, and also of fighting against illegal proselytism.
Patriarch John of Antioch presented the situation in Syria and Lebanon, as well as in other areas under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Antioch. His Beatitude Patriarch John X did not conceal his sorrow regarding the silence and the indifference of the international community about the kidnapping of the two Syrian bishops: Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo, brother of Patriarch John X of Antioch, and the Jacobite Syrian Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim, sending a request to the international community to involve in the immediate release of the two bishops who were kidnapped about three years ago.
Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem described the difficult situation in Middle-East that threatens the identity and sustainability of the countries in the area. His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos expressed his gratitude for the initiative of organizing this International Conference, also considering the urgent need to solve the refugee and immigrant problem.
Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens referred to the cases of the dead refugees, some of which were children, and sent to the European authorities a request to end the refugee issue.
“I take full responsibility for every human who ran away, because I haven’t done all I was supposed to do as a spiritual shepherd. We are all called today to leave the words and achieve more deeds, to take more substantial initiatives”, His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos said.
Archbishop Anastasios of Albania mentioned the fact that “there exists a general responsibility of the great powers for the crisis in the Middle-East: promoting decisions for violent changes of leadership and regimes; the supplying of weapons; apathy to collateral damage; and the millions of innocent victims and huge waves of refugees; pollution of the environment and destruction of rare monuments of culture. It is time for everyone to shake off their lethargy and take effective action in order to cease the military conflicts and terrible bloodshed”.
Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus made the following remarks: “I am sorry to observe that democratic Europe and America, while they pose as protectors of human rights, in this particular case they financed and armed the extremists, especially in Syria, and watch the situation from distance with apathy, which is unacceptable. And all these are unfortunately happening in the name of democratic powers.
As Primate of the Church of Cyprus, I lift up a cry of protest for the abominable and unacceptable persecution of the minorities, both Muslims and Christians from Syria and other Middle-East countries. And from the depths of my soul, I appeal to the powerful leaders of the Earth to exercise their influence in order to peacefully solve disputes, to achieve a creative collaboration for the common benefit and the respect towards religious freedom and human rights for the peoples of the Middle-East”.
Sources: ecclesia.gr, amen.gr, orthodoxalbania.org, pemptousia.gr