Forging Peace through Multi-Religious Cooperation
Communiqué from the European Council of Religious
Leaders/Religions for Peace
7-10 November, 2004
Members of the European Council of Religious Leaders/Religions for Peace (ECRL)
reiterated their commitment to multi-religious cooperation for a just peace and stability in Europe. The ECRL offers its partnership to the European institutions, believing that such partnership is essential in addressing and resolving the challenges Europe confronts in its present transformation.
Its third meeting since its inauguration in 2002 was convened in Leuven, Belgium. Belgium's capital Brussels is today a city that symbolizes for so many Europeans and countries the new Europe that is under construction. During the meeting, senior religious leaders from diverse religious traditions and many parts of the continent continued to have dialogue with one another. Representatives of political institutions with responsibilities to uphold and enhance peace, democracy and stability in Europe such as the European Union (EU), Council of Europe, NATO and South East Europe Stability Pact took an active part in this dialogue.
ECRL welcomes the major enlargement of the EU that took place May 1 2004 when the EU embraced 10 new member states. Other states are in the process of negotiating for membership. Among them are countries in the Balkans, as well as Turkey as the first country with a Muslim majority population. This transition brings both challenges and new opportunities. ECRL maintains that the EU needs partners in civil society to be successful in this process. The Council offers partnership and commits itself to work together with the EU and its institutions as stated in a document adopted in this meeting. ECRL brings European churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and gurudwaras into networks that transcends national boundaries throughout the entire European region and are related to the wider world.
ECRL urges the EU to set up a mechanism for regular, transparent open and genuine dialogue with religious communities in accordance with article 52 in its new Constitution. Such a mechanism should be inclusive, participatory and non-competitive and aim at helping the EU to better understand the prevailing religious sentiments in the different regions and traditions of Europe. This mechanism should provide an arena for mutual sharing of ideas and initiatives for peace and stability. ECRL is ready to serve as one of the major partners in this endeavor.
The ECRL condemns the recent violent acts in Europe, including murders, and any acts of violence. Violence in the name of religion is violence against religion. Hatred in the name of God is hatred against God.
ECRL deplores bans on religious articles and symbols including Muslim headscarves, Jewish skullcaps, large Christian crosses and Sikh turbans in public schools. ECRL is of the opinion that the wearing of prescribed religious attire should not be seen as a threat to secular principles of any state. ECRL considers that such a ban threatens individual freedom to practice religion and is therefore an infringement of universal human rights.
The members of the ECRL noted with great concern the rise of Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other expressions of racism in Europe. ECRL supports the work of the European Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) and recommends all faith communities to make proactive efforts to combat racism, e.g. educational programs and youth exchange.
Special guests at this ECRL meeting have been senior religious leaders from countries of South East Europe. During the meeting these leaders have been actively engaged in a dialogue to follow the way of truth, justice and reconciliation in their own countries.
ECRL encourages the Inter-Religious Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Inter-Religious Council of Kosovo to continue their commitment to work for healing the scars of war and building a just peace. There are deep lessons to be learned, bitter lessons taught by brutal recent ethnic conflicts and hopeful lessons born of the courage to forge a lasting peace. ECRL likewise encourages the religious communities and others in Bosnia and Herzegovina to contribute to the realization of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the country.
Additionally the ECRL encourages the continued initiative of the international community, particularly the Council of Europe and UNESCO in the reconstruction of religious sites and monuments in Kosovo. It calls upon these bodies to extend their assistance to the Islamic community in Serbia as well.
ECRL also welcomes the development and advancement of a network of religious leaders from South East Europe to continue to have dialogue, share experiences and seek ways to forge peace, stability and security throughout the region.
European Council of Religious Leaders/Religions for Peace (ECRL) is a body of senior religious leaders of Europe's historic religions including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, with Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and Zoroastrians in Europe who have committed themselves to cooperating for conflict prevention, peaceful co-existence and reconciliation. ECRL is a participating body of the World Conference of Religions for Peace.