His Eminence Archbishop Makarios’s Speech During Inter-Religious Dialogue on 15th February 2014, In Iran.
The Inter-religious members present and all protocol observed. Beloved brothers and sisters from different religions who are gathered here today, allow me to extend my paternal greetings to you in the Name of theAlmighty God. Amen.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing.” Psalm 133:1-3.
We are all gathered here to chant the way to enhancing unity between the Christians and Muslim religion.The theme of our conference is about the “Spirituality and Modernity”. We need to know that there is no irreconcilable contradiction between modernity and spirituality, as they can both be balancing factors. To deal with the hazards modernity may pose, one may need to go back to spiritual roots.
I wish to dwell much of my speech on the unity since it is the core value and intention of God to create human being. The unity that God wants is not uniformity, imitation or compromise of doctrinal beliefs to the expense of our unity as Christians and Muslims but as brothers and sisters. When we look back at this time, we will see it as a time when we displayed every aspect of our being, both accomplishments and faults. For long ages the teachings of successive religions, religious leaders and powerful individuals sustained a certain unity of thought in evolving humanity. There were, of course, many periods of war and dissent but at some level the unifying influence of the great religions was maintained. Today, individuality is so potent, so valued and rewarded, that, despite its manifold achievements; this precious individuality has become man’s greatest danger.
Little by little, our minds are turning to the needs of all. This, naturally, runs counter to the arousing call of individuality. Hence the present extraordinary tension that has brought chaotic conditions in the world. The problems, political and economic, are basically of a spiritual nature but can be solved only in the political and economic fields. Unity must be sought and manifested. Peace is essential but can only be achieved where Justice reigns. Justice, it will be found, needs the calm of our hearts as the religious leaders, God unity bearers and trust for its achievement.
Just as the Psalmist uses Mount Hermon which flourished because of the heavy dew that rested upon it, a fruitful place the mountains of Zion tended to be barren and lifeless, we are the mountain Hermon in our religions that stands between the two and more religions in the world. This picture of mount Hermon displays unity that makes our barren and lifeless people to have fruits of life, meaningful, unity, peace, love and be able to work together as brothers and sisters. Many a times we ask ourselves, can men and women of this world ever fully respond to the longing for unity placed within them by God the Father? Will they ever manage by their power alone to overcome indifference, egoism and hatred, and to accept the legitimate differences typical of brothers and sisters? My fellow members gathered here we can summarize the answer to one phrase given by Jesus, “For you have only one Father, who is God, and you are all brothers and sisters (Matt. 23: 8 – 9).
Biblical account of creation, all people descended from common parents, Adam and Eve, the couple created by God in His image and likeness (Gen. 1: 26) to whom Cain and Abel were born. In the story of this first family, we see the origins of society and the evolution of relations between individuals and people.Their profound identity and their vocation is to leave together as brothers and sisters. Their story brings out the difficult task to which all men and women are called to live as one, each taking care of the other.God always asks us, as He asked Cain, “where is your brother?” God holds us accountable for what we do.When the unity does not prevail among our people God will hold us accountable for disunity. He appointed us to bring unity to all religions.
In the past year, many of our brothers and sisters have continued to endure the destructive experience of war, which constitutes a grave and deep wound inflicted on the innocent ones. Many conflicts are taking place amid general indifference. To all those who live in lands where weapons impose terror and destruction, we as the religious leaders we need to assure them of our personal closeness whose mission is to bring Godly love, unity to the defenseless victims. I appeal to all those who sow the seed of violence, disunity and death by force of arms in the person you see today simply as an enemy to be beaten, discover rather your brother or sister, and hold back your hand. My dear brothers and sisters, let us assist our people to give up the way of arms, disunity and go out to meet the other in dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust and hope around you. I want to assure you that for the world’s peoples, armed conflicts are a deliberate negation of international harmony and profound divisions and deep wounds which require many years to heal. War creates disunity, hostility, trust, harmony.
It’s only Unity that differentiates the strong team and weak team. It’s only unity that will differentiate the religious people and non-religious people. Unity is the key. Whether we’re talking about a sports team, work team, school team, health care team, inter-religious team, or home based business team, it’s essential that we get everyone on the board and move in the right direction with a shared vision, focus, purpose and direction. When a team comes together they are able to succeed together if we can come together we will succeed. But if unity is so important then why aren’t more teams more united you might ask? Why are there so few great teams and so many average and dysfunctional teams? The answer is simple. It’s not easy to bring people together. Agendas, egos, politics, power struggles, negativity, energy vampires, poor leadership, mismanagement, complaining, and a lack of vision, focus and purpose all prevent people from uniting and performing at their highest level. The bad news is that there are hundreds of negative forces and factors that can sabotage unity and success. The good news is that unified teams show us it is possible to overcome them our egos.
Unity happens when leaders are committed to and engaged in the process of building a united, winning team if we as the religious leaders gathered here today are united then our people whom we represent will be united and will leave in harmony with one another. It requires focus, time, and energy. Unity occurs when people care more about the vision, purpose and health of their neighbours than they do their own personal agenda. Changing the mindset is essential. Unity happens when each person can clearly see how their personal vision and effort contributes to the overall vision and success of religious union. This involves meaningful conversations. And Unity results when you weed out the negativity that sabotages far too many religions.
Throughout history even to the present day, there is found among different peoples a certain awareness of a hidden power, which lies behind the course of nature and the events of human life. At times there is present even recognition results in a way of life that is imbued with a deep religious sense. The religions life and culture. which are found in more advanced civilizations endeavour by way of well-defined concepts. Many religions which are found throughout the world attempt in their own ways to calm the hearts of men by outlining a program of life covering doctrine, moral precepts and sacred rites. The Church, urges her sons to enter with prudence and charity into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions. Christians, while witnessing to their faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among other religions, also their social life and culture.
The experience of recent years gives evidence of the many ways in which dialogue is expressed. Before all else, dialogue is a manner of acting, an attitude and a spirit which guides one’s conduct. It implies concern, respect, and hospitality towards the other. It leaves room for the other person’s identity, their modes of expression and values. Dialogue is the norm and necessary manner of every form of Christian mission as well as of every aspect of it, whether one speaks of simple presence and witness, service, or direct proclamation. Any sense of mission not permeated by such dialogical spirit would go against the demands of true humanity and against the teachings of the Gospel.
Every human being by reason of his human and religion is called to live dialogue in his daily life, whether he finds himself in a majority situation or in that of a minority. He ought to bring the spirit of the cohesion into any environment in which he lives and works, that of family, social, educational, artistic, economic, or political life. Dialogue finds its place in the great dynamism of the religion’s mission. We need to collaborate with others for goals of a humanitarian, social, economic or political nature which are directed towards the liberation and advancement of mankind. Inter-religious dialogue is not based on a model of negation between parties who have conflicting interests and claims. It is a process of mutual empowerment for the faiths involved. It is about engagement in public concerns and the joint purist of social justice, human dignity and constructive action on behalf of the common good of all citizens. We all need to know that in spite of our religious differences, there is a common thread that links so many faiths to God we are all under obligation to join hands in a process where people of diverse faiths can come together. This is in order to face mutually perceived problems, such as social and moral issues, the value of education, use and abuse of the doctrine of human rights.
The field of collaboration can be extremely wide that exhorts both Christians and Muslims to forget the past and to defend and promote together social justice, moral values, peace and liberty. We as the leaders of various religions we need to call on our followers to work together with other believers by virtue of their respective faiths. Many of us gathered here today have visions of the world and adhere to a religion which inspires us to action. We need to understand and appreciate each other’s spiritual values and cultural categories and promote communion and fellowship among people. We can all cooperate in the evangelical transformation of cultures and dialogue of religious experience.
In our process of inter-religious dialogue we need to have a dialogue of life, where our people strive to live in an open and neighbourly spirit, sharing their joys and sorrows, their human problems and preoccupations.We need to have a dialogue of action, in which Christians and others collaborate for the integral development and liberations of people. Theological exchange dialogue, where specialists seek to deepen their understanding of their respective religious heritage and to appreciate each other’s spiritual values. A dialogue of religious experience, where persons, rooted in their own religious traditions, share their spiritual riches, with regards to prayer and contemplation, faith and ways of searching for God or the absolute.
In order to address the major difficulty we need to achieve mutual understanding of each other’s faith, we need to recognize that self-understanding of a religion by its adherents manifests itself through the level of experience, the level of rational and empirical knowledge. Many of the conflicts that arise among our religions are due to misinformation and misunderstanding. Therefore, we as the religious leaders we have are sponsible for educating and guiding the masses, who are easily carried away. We need to guide our people on the great need for peaceful coexistence of all people and of all faiths. The great problems, persecutions and dangers that missionaries and the faithful of the various Christian denominations have been facing for centuries from fanatical followers of traditional religions we all realize that there is necessity of inter-religious dialogue as the most appropriate means for facing the various social problems derived from the meeting or the coexistence of heterogeneous religious groups within the framework of both the modern state and the world community.
In my conclusion I wish once more to say dialogues require, on the part of Christians as well as of the followers of other traditions, a balanced attitude. We should neither ingenuous nor over critical, but open and receptive. Unselfishness and impartiality, acceptance of differences and of possible contradictions.The will to engage together in commitment to the truth and the readiness to allow oneself to be transformed by the encounter are other dispositions required. This does not mean that in entering into a dialogue the partners should lay aside their respective religious convictions. The opposite is true: the sincerity of inter-religious dialogue requires that each enters into it with the integrity of his or her own faith. At the same time, while remaining firm in their belief remembering that God has also manifested himself in someway to the followers of other religious traditions. Consequently it is with receptive minds that we approach the convictions and values of others.
Many a times we have faced many obstacles while trying to hold a dialogue on a purely human level it is not easy to practice dialogue. Inter-religious dialogue is even more difficult. It is important to be aware of the obstacles which may arise. Some of the obstacles will apply equally to the members of all religious traditions and impede the success of dialogue. Others may affect some religious traditions more specifically and make it difficult for a process of dialogue to be initiated. Insufficient grounding in one’s own faith, insufficient knowledge and understanding of the belief and practices of other religions, leading to a lack of appreciation for their significance and even at times to misrepresentation. Cultural differences, arising from different levels of instructions, or from the use of different languages. Socio-political factors or some burdens of the past. Wrong understanding of the meaning of terms such as conversion, baptism, dialogue etc. self-sufficiency, lack of openness leading to defensive or aggressive attitudes.
In His Service,
Archbishop Makarios of Kenya