Bosphorus Declaration

The participants in the Conference on Peace and Tolerance: Central Asia, Caucasus and the Balkans, wish to thank the Government of Turkey for the courteous hospitality it has extended to us for an opportunity to pursue our deliberations on the vitals issues of peace and tolerance. (The Conference was Co-sponsored by the Ecumenical Patriarchate)

The Conference wishes to recognize the contributions of President Clinton, President Demirel, UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and the other religious and political leaders who have sent messages of support.

In this Declaration we wish to specifically refer to the Berne Declaration of November 26, 1992, which has given us a foundation on which to build. That Declaration specifically states that, “a crime committed in the name of religion is a crime against religion.”

Since November 26, 1992, we have seen many crimes committed in the name of religion and we, the Conference participants, wish to speak out vigorously against them. As recent events have shown, the crimes against humanity continue in Bosnia, in Armenia/Azerbaijan, Georgia and Tajikistan. The cruelties have continued unchecked, and we demand an end to this brutality.

We, the undersigned, reject any attempt to corrupt the basic tenets of our faith by means of false interpretation and unchecked nationalism. We stand firmly against those who violate the sanctity of human life and pursue policies in defiance of moral values. We reject the concept that it is possible to justify one’s actions in any armed conflict in the name of God.

We wish to emphatically remind all the faithful that the scriptures of all three monotheistic religions specifically speak of peace as a supreme value. “Blessed are the peace makers, for they will be called children of God.” “Allah summoneth to the abode of peace.” “His ways are the ways of peace.”

We reiterate that the war in the former Yugoslavia is a not a religious war and that appeals and exploitation of religious symbols to further the cause of aggressive nationalism are a betrayal of the universality of religious faith. We emphasize the imperative of freedom of conscience and freedom of religion of every minority. We call for an end to the confiscation, desecration and destruction of houses of worship and of holy and sacred places of whatever religious tradition. We totally abhor and condemn ethnic cleansing and the rape and murder of women and children. We demand the removal of obstacles that prevent humanitarian assistance for reaching those who are suffering.

We condemn the use of force in countries of the former Soviet Union. The conflicts in Georgia, Armenia/Azerbaijan and Tajikistan must be concluded immediately and solutions for the outstanding issues must be found by other means.

We recognize that all who are suffering are victims, but single out specifically the most tragic and innocent victims who are children.

We ask our religious communities to embrace children from the areas of conflict in God’s love and to extend all possible assistance to the suffering children, to help them find a spiritual, psychological and physical healing. We cannot emphasize enough that spiritual nourishment is a paramount requirement; religious communities must be supported. We also recognize that all the countries suffering from conflict have had a long dark period of communism where there was little or no spiritual education. We urge all faiths to redouble their efforts for spiritual guidance for those who were deprived.

We wish to recognize also that tension exists within faiths and urge the leaderships of those faiths to bring about peaceful resolutions to the issues which divide them.

The Conference participants, as all others who have followed these tragic conflicts, observe with horror the forced migration of refugees. Millions have experienced or are threatened by forcible displacement. Therefore, we call upon all religious faiths to speak out clearly and consistently against these actions. We condemn those who uproot families from their homes, tear children from their parents, divide husband and wife in the name of false nationalism. We expect all religious leaders to stand fast in the protection by all those threatened by involuntary migration, whatever their religious beliefs or ethnic backgrounds. We demand that all refugees who have left their home involuntarily be permitted to return with dignity and honor; that the religious communities strengthen their institutions to receive, assist and protect refugees of whatever faith; that religious and lay relief agencies develop procedures to coordinate their efforts. As long as the conflicts continue we urge all countries to extend temporary asylum to victims, while granting opportunity for refugee status to those who truly seek it; to increase resources for relief; and to work with all who are of good faith for the cessation of hostilities.

The participants in the Conference on Peace and Tolerance have agreed unanimously to utterly condemn war and armed conflict; to demand that no hostile acts are perpetrated upon any peaceful group or region in the name of a religious faith; to demand the initiation of constructive dialogues to solve outstanding issues between those different faiths; and to demand the right to practice one’s religion in freedom and with dignity.

We have deliberated carefully and are in agreement that the wanton killing must stop; that those who continue to perpetrate such heinous acts are criminals and that, although we have no weapons of war and no armies for combat, we have a greater strength, the strength of spiritual might. We totally condemn those who commit the brutalities, the killings, the rapes, mutilations, forcible displacement and inhuman beatings.

We, the Conference participants, have decided to establish an Appeal of Conscience Conflict Resolution Commission to deal with ethnic conflicts. This Commission will be made up of representatives from all the faiths and from all the countries represented at this Conference. The ACF Conflict Resolution Commission will be responsible to inform Commission members and recommend ways and means to deal with the scourge of extreme nationalism and ethnic conflict.

February 9, 1994
Istanbul, Turkey

This Declaration was signed by:

Rabbi Arthur Schneier
President, Appeal of Conscience Foundation

His Eminence Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz
President of teh Office of Religious Affairs
of the Republic of Turkey

His All Holiness
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

H.E. Cardinal Roger Etchegaray
President, Pontifical Council on
Peace and Justice and Cor Unum