We, the participants in the Conference on Peace and Tolerance II Dialogue and Understanding in South East Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, co-sponsored by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, wish to thank the Government of Turkey and the President of the Office of Religious Affairs, Professor Dr. Ali Bardakoglu, for their courteous assistance and cooperation, as we have assembled to focus on the vital message of peace and tolerance that we wish to bring to the countries of those three regions.
The Conference wishes to take into account the important concerns conveyed by President George W. Bush, Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, the President of the European Union Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, the Secretary General of the World Islamic Call Society, Dr. Mohamed Ahmed Sherif , the Director General of UNESCO, Koishuro Matsura, Her Excellence Mrs. Marietta Giannakou, Minister of Education and Religious Affairs of the Hellenic Republic and by the many other religious and political leaders who have sent messages of support.
We applaud the recent initiative taken by the Secretary General of the U.N. upon the establishment of the Alliance of Civilization. We recommend the Alliance be enhanced through inter-religious dialogue, to consult and cooperate with national political and religious leaders to investigate and recommend remedial measures to the Secretary General concerning acts of religious and ethnic violence.
This Conference continued the deliberations on peace and tolerance that began in Berne in 1992 and continued here in 1994. While most of the deadly conflicts that raged then have ceased, unfortunately there is still distrust, suspicion, the threat of harm, as well as intermittent violence in the regions represented. It is our aim, as religious leaders of our countries, to mitigate against those dangerous paths; to heal painful memories; and encourage all to exhibit in their actions the spirit of “live and let live”.
As spiritual leaders of the children of Abraham, it is incumbent upon us to diminish ethnic and religious tensions. In that spirit we call upon all leaders of faith to preach, teach and practice love, tolerance and understanding of one another and other faiths and ethnic communities in their mosques, churches and synagogues, in their families, schools and seminaries. We must also accept responsibility for promoting education, nurture and encouragement among all members of our communities, women and men, young and old, exhorting them to engage in committed efforts to insure that the injuries and conflicts of our past will not be repeated.
Recently South East Europe has witnessed significant positive developments toward mutual dialogue, reconciliation and cooperation. We recognize the important, continuing and intensifying activities by the United Nations and the OSCE in South East Europe and welcome the progress they are making. However, serious problems still exist in regard to protection of religious and ethnic rights and tolerance. Crimes continue to be committed in the name of religion. We reiterate, in our most vigorous voice, that such actions must stop. As stated in the Appeal of Conscience Declaration signed in Berne, Switzerland in1992, “A crime committed in the name of religion is a crime against religion”.
We deplore those who preach violence toward other faiths and ethnic communities. Believing in the sanctity of human life we firmly stand against those who violate and defy basic human values. We reject all actions that corrupt the basic tenets of our faiths by means of false interpretation and unchecked nationalism. And we vigorously reject the assertion that justification of an action in any armed conflict can be attributed to God. Such justification will not lead to peace. We demand the firm establishment of the rule of law with respect to fundamental human rights in all countries represented at this conference and urgently seek to encourage all to ensure proper care of refugees, internally displaced peoples and active protection of minorities.
The scourge of international terrorism that defiles the tenets of morality of our monotheistic religions, has intensified since 1994. We condemn those who engage in such heinous crimes as lawless murderers and call upon all religious leaders to speak out forcefully against them.
It is vital to remember, and we remind all the faithful emphatically, that the scriptures of all monotheistic religions consider peace as a supreme value and vocation. As we said in 1994, “His ways are the ways of peace”, “Blessed are the peace makers, for they will be called children of God.”, “Allah summoneth to the abode of Peace.”
We call upon religious leaders in South East Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia to support without reservation all inter-religious dialogues for peace, justice and human rights and strongly encourage them to become partners in sincere and open dialogue with each other.
We reject violence and totally and unconditionally condemn the use of force, ethnic cleansing and brutalities. We demand that all hold safe and protect the religious edifices and monuments of all religions, in keeping with United Nations Resolution A/RES/55/254 for the Protection of Religious Sites, that was adopted unanimously by the General Assembly. We ask for the appointment of a special representative to monitor compliance with that resolution.
We understand and lament the inhuman suffering of innocents that results from the consequences of violent conflict, and recognize the tragedy of those peace loving peoples of faith, victimized because of their faith; but we most especially recognize the plight of innocent children, the elderly and the infirm, who are the most helpless victims of conflict. Therefore, we ask the religious communities to nurture and assist the suffering children, the sick and aged, no matter what faith they profess, to help them find spiritual, psychological and physical healing.
We, the Conference participants, recognize that much has been accomplished since 1994. Although wars have diminished, still tensions exist, fueled by intemperate rhetoric, that have flared into brutal acts. We resolutely reject the use of language that incites people to violence. We encourage religious leaders to work with the political leadership in their respective countries to promote peace, justice, human and religious rights.
The participants in the Conference on Peace and Tolerance have unanimously re-affirmed the previous agreement made at the first Peace and Tolerance Conference in 1994, that condemned wanton killings and called for them to stop. We believe those who engage in such heinous acts are criminals; we abhor those who commit or threaten brutalities, killings, rapes and mutilations; we deplore those who engage in the destruction of religious edifices, shrines and monuments; we reject war and armed conflict praying for reconciliation, co-existence and peace; we demand that no hostile acts be perpetrated upon any peaceful group or region in the name of religious faith; we pray that constructive dialogues be continued, to solve outstanding issues between those of different faiths; we affirm the right to practice one’s religion in freedom and with dignity.
We humbly express our gratitude to God for the opportunity he has granted us to re-affirm our commitment to deliberate together to promote peace, justice and human dignity.
November 9, 2005
The Ecumenical Patriarch
Rabbi Arthur Schneier
President, Appeal of Conscience Foundation
Chairman, The Muslims Board of Caucasus
Walter Cardinal Kasper
President, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity