NEWS

Religious war is a ‘war on religion itself’

Representatives of the three great monotheistic religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – yesterday began a two-day meeting in Brussels aimed at promoting the message of tolerance and understanding. It has been organized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate under the aegis of the European Union. The tragic events of September 11 have given rise to the demand for us to reveal to all nations the peaceful and peace-loving God and to erase the impression that God blesses bloodshed, Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios, spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, said at the opening. We and the religions that we represent have been criticized for bearing responsibility for catastrophic and bloody disputes between people. We stand charged with leading civilizations into bloodshed and competition for dominance, Vartholomaios said. War in the name of religion is war on religion. The meeting will end today and is aimed at drawing up a joint declaration setting out the common ideals of the three religions. In his address, Vartholomaios pointed out that it was necessary to differentiate between true faith and the teaching of each of these religions and the various false teachers who appear to express God’s will but are nothing but simple expressions of human opinions regarding His will. The fact that there are so many conflicting opinions which claim to express Divine Will makes it obvious that not all of them can be right, he added. The New Testament does not refer extensively to war, but there is much regarding peace, and the Christians are called upon to maintain this peace as well as is possible. The Old Testament and Koran, also, though they refer extensively to war, make it absolutely clear that peace belongs to a higher moral plane. Among those attending were European Commission President Romano Prodi, Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, and Greece’s commissioner, Anna Diamantopoulou. Among the religious representatives were Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Secretariat for Christian Unity; Bishop Eberhardt Renz, a president of the World Council of Churches; the chief rabbis of Brussels, Vienna and Russia; the grand mufti of Syria. But winds dropped enough for the Merchant Marine Ministry to lift its ban on departures from Piraeus and Rafina for the Aegean Islands.