This article is part of New Europe’s: Our World in 2017

Belgium-Brussels – The concept of the interreligious dialogue more often infiltrates into politics, especially into international politics. It is so because it seems to be an important instrument of cooperation, establishing new relations between representatives of different religions and meetings which are attended by leading national politicians and politicians of international institutions. The dialogue is very often inspired by them. It seeks peaceful solutions of coexsistence of different religions and faiths. Its aim is the mutual recognition and the understanding of spiritual leaders and familiarizing the politicians with spiritual principles and different positions taken by religions on their current problems. The dialogue assumes openness and respect to other humans and their religions. In the dialogue one seeks the truth, but simultaneously he is allowed to strengthen himself in his own indentity and faith. It teaches humility to others and bolsters the ability of listening to them.

Essentially, we understand the interreligious dialogue as the dialogue between the Catholic Church with the confessors of non-Christian religions. It was initialised during the Second Vatican Council in the sixties. The pope Paul VI had supported the dialogue between Catholic and Jews, which resulted in the creation of International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee (ILC). At that time was issued the “Nostra Aetate”, which specified the conditions of the dialogue with Judaism: mutual respect for the diversity and tradition and the recognition of different elements of the two religions. The dialogue was afterwards developed by the pope Jan Paul II and emphasized by his historical visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome in 1986 when he was talking about mutual heritage of Jews and Christians, which results from the Evangel and from the spirituality of the Old Testament.

The Holy See established the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, which implements the above-mentioned Declaration “Nostra Aetate”. Despite two thousand years of coexistence, establishing the official relations is some kind of novelty and an invitation to developing the dialogue intending to create mutual respect and the recognition of one’s freedoms.

These relations allow to reach to the sources and the beginnings of the Christian faith described in the Bible. The meetings and conversations took the name “dialogue”. This openness of the Catholic Church to other religions and the intention to establishing good relations is a merit of the Second Vatican Council. The dialogue therefore has become not only some kind of meetings and collaborations, but the necessity and the right attitude in the brutal world.  The significance and role of this dialogue is increasing, especially in Europe. It is important for Churches and politicians. The Vatican Secretary for non-Christians and Papal Council for Dialogue keep relations with others religions: Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism etc. It expresses solidarity and helps the Yazidi persecuted  by the Islamic State.

The Catholic Church conducts friendly relations with the Orthodox Church and other Christian Churches in the world. We call this kind of relations an Ecumenism. It is an appropriate name, because its target is an unification of all Christians: Catholics, Orthodox, Greco-Catholics, Greco-Orthodox, Protestants, Lutherans, Copts, Assyrians etc. Cooperation with the Orthodox Church is an attempt to find a common road lost by a Great Schism 1000 years ago. The pope John Paul II was a big follower of developing movement of ecumenical unification of the Christians and then of applying this approach to other religions. This approach is the interreligious dialogue, the relations between the independent entities.

This open position of the Catholic Church resulted in establishing dynamic relations especially with Jewish and Muslims. The special prayer meetings were inspired by the Pope John Paul II in Assisi in 1986. The religious leaders prayed together for the peace in the world. Trough the dialogue the religions can emphasize their role and mission with respect to the others and without proselytizing. Each religions is different which cause a lot of difficulties in the negotiations. Dialogue respects the sovereignty of each subject and does not permit to blend the rites and practices which would lead to the syncretism.

Each religion is independent and can play the special role of reconciliation and peacebuilding between the people and the nations in the present world. The Pope Franciscus appeals to the hostile parts to take up a peaceful dialogue. He said: ”Interreligious dialogue is a necessary condition of peacebuilding in the world. Only trough the dialogue we can eliminate the intolerance and discrimination”.         

The dialogue must move from the level of the pope, patriarchs, bishops, rabbis, imams, etc. to the individuals. It is a duty of each person to respect the dignity and life of the others, it is a human right.

At present the European politicians observe and try to participate in this dialogue. They have an official instrument, article 17 of the TFUE. The Lisbon Treaty confirm relations with churches: “The EU […] recognizing their identity and their specific contribution, the Union shall maintain an open transparent and regular dialogue with the churches and organizations”. EU politicians know that the Churches and religious communities have an important influence over the society. For keeping a good European project it is important to keep proper relations with the Churches. It is a common program of human values of the democratic states.

The leaders of the EPP (European People’s Party) have understood this principle 20 years ago. They began the first dialogue with the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, then with Jewish and Muslims.

The dialogue with the Orthodox Church allows to keep good relations with East Europe orthodox countries, members and not-members of the EU.

This action made possible the better integration in the EU and better relations with its neighbours.  Small Department for Interreligious Dialogue prepares each year a lot of conferences, Working Groups and meetings with different religious leaders. This activities permit to analyse a lot of difficult issues of social, economic and politic ground.  The conferences often refer to human rights violations and, especially, to persecution of Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities. 

The subjects of this conferences are present European and world problems: migrations, terrorism, war in the Middle East, security etc. Definitely not the easiest questions. In this case, to resolve a very difficult problem, there is a deep need of the dialogue with Islam.  It is a dialogue very difficult, but feasible. Feassible with a moderate Islam.

This dialogue would open the better relations,  especially with the Mediterranean, neighbourly countries.  The Christians’ leaders help in this dialogue for the interest of the both. Both Christianity and Islam are monotheist religions, they share some similarities and experience big differences. Both are the missionary religions, however the Christianity have a hierarchy and Islam does not.  Each Imam is independent and can interpret the Koran according to its own education. 

The dialog touches a very delicate matter.  Delicate when it comes to the religious side and delicate in a politic way. 

The EPP members are conscious of this fragility but they aim to defend the EU and human values which are often being threatened by extremism forces and recurrent crises in the world. The members of the EPP can – with other colleagues, if necessary – adopt the appropriate resolution, in the form of the European Parliament act. They did it in the past. It is a prestigious document, important in the international relationships. This atypical act expresses the power of will and moral position of the Parliament. This important signal can reach the European diplomacy and the Members in order to adopt a common political act.