11 September 2011 16:30 | Residenz, Herkulessaal
BOUND TO LIVE TOGETHER: RELIGIONS AND CULTURES IN DIALOGUE by Dr. Danilo Türk
It is a great
privilege and honour to offer a few thematic remarks on the occasion of this august gathering. I am grateful to the Community of Saint'Egidio for the invitation. I wish to pay special tribute to the Community of Saint'Egidio and the Archdiocese of Munich – Freising for having prepared this international meeting for peace, and to H.E, Christian Wulff, the President of the German Federal Republic and Mr. Horst Seehofer, the Minister-President of Bavaria for their inspiring addresses.
We have gathered today on the anniversary of one of the most tragic and ominous events in recent history – the terrorist attacks on the United States, which took place on September 11 exactly ten years ago. I lived and worked in New York at that time and I shall never forget the depth of tragedy and the pain inflicted upon so many people in a single vicious and utterly criminal act. Today we mourn again. We remember the victims who lost teir lives and many others who became victims of deep psychological trauma and the post traumatic stress disorder.
Yet the brutality of terrorism also teaches us important lessons, above all the lesson of theimportance of peace. Peace is never ensured without an effort. It requires constant nurturing and a wide variety of human activities - including wise and skillful diplomacy with the aimto prevent violent conflict. Peace also requires careful management of economic nad social development, fairness and justice in society and at the international level. But, above all,peace requires a strong moral commitment.
Peace is much more than mere absence of war. It has many faces and many names. Most of us gathered today recall the words of Pope John Paul II who explained that development was a new name for peace. He was right. Stagnating and underdeveloped societies are much more likely to develop a sense of grievance and injustice that, in turn, so often lead to violence and destruction.
Peace is an important human value. It will be upheld and supported in those societies where this value is recognized and where governments behave in accordance with the requirements of peace. These include not only respect for international law and other requirements of the Charter of the United Nations, but also – and in particular - the need to uphold justice and fairness at home.
Iustitia regnoruum fundamentum est – justice is the very foundation of government and stateauthority. As such it is a vital basis of peace. Let us take a moment to reflect on the meaning of justice. Very often justice is perceived in terms of institutions and procedures – the courts of law, the judgments and the due process of law. In the process of rebuilding of war- torn societies, justice systems and punishment of crimes committed during the war are among the guarantees of the durability of peace.
However, there is a broader meaning of justice: Justice is fairness, it is a state of affairs in which people enjoy and expect fair treatment, fairness in the pursuit of their legitimate aspirations, and fairness in the government's attitude towards their grievances. At the time of hardship people are prepaired to accept their fair share of burdens, but they are likely to revolt against unfair treatment or against placement of an unfair share of burden upon their shoulders.
An important part of the test of fairness relates to the treatment of those who are different: those who belong to ethnic, religious or cultural minorities, to the treatment of immigrants and their communities. Many European societies today face serious questions in this regard.
In the recent decades Europe has experienced a constantly growing immigration. Migrants represent 8,7 per cent of the total European population. This has produced a certain impact on employment, social services and crime rates. At the same time, it is disturbing that the public image of immigration and its effects is often inaccurate. It is disturbing that some of the political actors and media systems systematically produce a distorted image and portray immigrants as a threat. The very real need for immigrant labour in Europe is ignored and thenegative effects of immigration exaggerated. Racism and xenophobia are on the rise. Racialand religious prejudices are becoming ever more frequent.
This is happening at the time of economic uncertainty and crisis, at the time when political leadership is often weak and when immediate economic and financial concerns cloud the vision of the future. These are dangerous times - as we were sadly reminded by the terrorist attack and mass murder committed in Norway last July.
In this situation we have to appreciate the initiative of the Council of Europe, the organization that has historically established itself as the major protector of human rights in Europe and has convened a group of eminent persons under the chairmanship of a prominent German, Mr. Joschka Fischer. The group has produced a serious analysis of the problems of migration and a wide range of recommendations for policy and action.
Their report has the same title as our gathering – Living Together – and it is a strong appeal to Europe and Europeans: Do not allow the closing of European mind; do not allow racism, xenophobia and other prejudices to prevail. Mobilize the educators, the mass media, the employers and trade unions, churches and civil society groups, celebrities and role models! Mobilize them in a broad effort for openness,for human rights, for justice, for fairness.
And I would add: This is the best and the most secure way to ensure cohesion of European societies, continued prosperity and peace. Europe - prosperous, tolerant and peaceful - will continue to be a global actor for peace and development. This is the responsibility of us, the Europeans towards the world today.
All of us who are committed to the objectives of justice, fairness and peace, must know that our time does not allow idleness. Neither are we without tools: Analyses of the problems such as those resulting from the recent migration exist. Proposals for action have been made. And Europe has a strong institutional and social infrastructure. What we need most of all, is a moral awakening and the action such an awakening will generate.
It is precisely for this reason that our gathering today is so valuable. It is for this reason that all the participants and in particular, the participating religious and civil society leaders leave this gathering with a renewed sense of committment: Yes, together we can improve the level of political and social dialogue in Europe, together we can offer an alternative to drift, together we can create a better Europe and a better World.