Third Christian-Muslim SUMMIT
2-4 December 2014, Rome, Italy
Prof. Dr. Adnane Mokrani
Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome
HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal,
The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane,
Ayatollah Sayyed Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad,
Excellences, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be here today with all of you and to have been given the opportunity to address on this occasion. I take the privilege to thank you all for your presence. I would like to begin my brief point of view about the theme of our meeting “Christians and Muslims: Believers Living in Society”.
Religions today face, in different ways, the challenges of modernity; particularly in relationship with politics and democracy. These challenges are part of a larger problem, i.e. the relationship between revelation and history, between the eternal and the temporal. The Problem is how to distinguish between the principles and the values and their historical forms and modes of application.
The fact is that the world has changed radically and the classical religious thought is rooted in a historical phase that no longer exists. Therefore, a radical reform and a profound renewal are needed to enable it to be more open, prone to dialogue with the new realities of the world. It entails a radical innovative effort, ijtihād, and not merely a simple superficial reform.
The history of political thought has known great changes. We have experienced the following phases:
- The classical state, where the criterion for belonging to the state was to be a member of the governing religious community or tribal coalition and where the followers of the other groups and communities were considered second class subjects.
- The modern national state, which, like the classical state, carries an exclusivist character, in the sense that those belonging to other ethnic groups, linguistic and cultural minorities are considered second-class citizens, though it is often not officially declared.
- The third step, i.e. the democratic state, based on full citizenship without any discrimination, albeit under construction with strong hesitation and resistance. The big sign of changing is the growing collective consciousness of the need for democracy, freedom and human rights, especially among the youth. In order to arrive at this level of civil and political maturity, where the human being is at the center of attention and interest, democracy has to be stripped of certain temptations:
- Resistance imposed by religious and nationalist ideologies, especially in a globalized world where fear of losing one’s identity is wide-spread. In this context, an exclusivist theology or ideology, in the name of a religion or a nation, is an ideology of power to justify hegemony in the name of superior identity, threatened by the others.
- The dominance of money, monopolized by few people, with the spread of a culture that promotes “money-latry” (idolatry of money), is another great temptation that takes powerful forms. This is a serious risk for the development of democracy, which becomes reduced to a mere procedural form in the hands of those who have the financial means and who control the mass media. A state which identifies itself with a religious majority or even a minority, uses a religious ideology to justify its supremacy and the marginalization of the other religious groups. In this sense, belonging to the dominant group is a privilege, and belonging to a minority means to be deprived of basic rights, as a second class citizen or part of a protected group.The liberation from exclusivism, as a potential violence, on the spiritual, theological and political levels is necessary to built a free and democratic society, where believers and non-believers can live together in peace, and the authentic religious values can contribute positively for the realization of this goal.
- The nationalist state does the same but in different terms, and sometimes in a non-declared way. The dominant “ethnic” or linguistic group marginalizes the other “ethnic” groups, because it does not suit the “National” profile. It is a kind of a “secular” version of the “religious” exclusivism. Sometimes a combination of the two -the religious and the nationalist- are united in one official identity.
- Obviously, the fusion of these two types of resistance is possible and is concretely manifested in certain cases. A fact which makes man’s journey towards an equal and just society, more difficult.