I would like to begin with the name of the Almighty, asking Him for His blessing and expressing my gratitude to Him.
Excellencies, Eminencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends.
It is a great privilege for me to participate in this event with a noble mission.
I would like to thank the organizer for the invitation to take part in this important interreligious event.
Let me express deep respect and gratitude to the Roman Catholic Church and its leader Pope Francis for his efforts towards connecting people on the ground of common values, which we can witness at this very moment.
I greet you all with the greeting of peace and with great respect.
Man is naturally a social being, and it cannot be otherwise. He can reach his full potential only within society. On this basis, people make one indivisible whole where they share common values and interests. Cultures and civilizations were not established in an ahistorical vacuum, but they were the result of human interaction. Man is not determined just by his culture and civilization; he is a far more universal being than that. He has always had the need for rising above his own cultural partiality.
Getting in touch with other cultural, philosophical, social and religious perspectives is a mandatory prerequisite for a complete truth about reality. The experience of diversity offers a variety of options and the freedom of choice. It is impossible to build walls around one culture and cut it off from all the streams of civilization. The identity that is established in cultural and linguistic isolation is the identity of closed eyes. Based on the historical findings, it can be concluded that the identities established in isolation have often been easily mobilized with the purpose of neutralization and destruction of others who are different from them.
Historically, religions, as well as people, have never existed in a complete isolation from each other. In the world where all the processes are inevitably dynamized, interreligious dialogue cannot be a case of spontaneity. Today, there are about 3, 700 ethnic and linguistic groups in the world. Religious traditions have a huge impact on the intensity and quality of developing relations between them. That is why it is a must for religious communities to strongly contribute to the affirmation of ethics of mutual understanding and respect, and that is a fundamental value of human society.
The necessity of coexistence and familiarity with each other led to discovering values within different religions and cultures. A significant feature of human being is the need for his own betterment. The path to his self-fulfillment is the touch with another human being who is different from him. Getting to know somebody other than himself improves his own life experience. A famous contemporary German theologian Jozef Kuschel says: “Every people and nation needs another one…, each religion needs to meet another religion with tolerance and deep respect. Minorities, no matter whether they are racial, ethnic or religious, need protection and encouragement.’’
According to the teachings of the world’s major religions, man is the most perfect of all God's creatures with great potentials which can be developed only in his encounter and coexistence with others. The verse from the Holy Qur’an says:
O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted. (Qur’an, 49:13)
Religions can contribute to the creation of a healthy worldview of a modern man who has the following starting point: belief in God, universal human brotherhood, advocacy of preservation of common values and rights: life, faith, reason, honor and property. The teachings of the world’s major religions call for philanthropy (love of humanity), mercy and consideration towards animals and plants, as well as nature in general. These ideas can be found in the teachings of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc., and it is necessary to interpret them in the context of building of a “common world ethic” (universal ethical values), where one can find universal ethical principles acceptable to every human being regardless of his religiosity. Common ethic is an assumption for world peace, where people would have more feelings and respect for one another.
Islam gives man the right to choose his own religious orientation, and, in the following Qur’anic verses, invites people to respect the orientation of others: There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. (Qur’an, 2:256) -And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed - all of them entirely. Then, [O Muhammad], would you compel the people in order that they become believers? (Qur’an, 10:99)
Diversity of nations and peoples is an ongoing test for the mankind. Therefore, it is necessary to teach people how to deal with the differences. Getting to know one another is an unavoidable process of overcoming fear from differences and achieving mutual respect. However, dialogue is not complete if it is just a matter of courtesy. Dialogue cannot aim at the victory of one side, but its objective has to be benevolence and openness to one another and building relations with each other. In this regard, Qur’an gives the following instructions: And argue with them in a way that is best. (Qur'an, 16:125)
Bosnian and Herzegovinian experience of interreligious dialogue and coexistence
On the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the world’s major religions, cultures and civilizations have always coexisted. The multilateral nature of Bosnian and Herzegovinian society is not “just a sum of spiritual, cultural, civilization, or ethnological content which, due to historical circumstances, exist next to each other,'' but, on the contrary, they exist with each other (they coexist). „ Peculiarity of Bosnian and Herzegovinian society lies in the fact that it grew, continuously over the centuries, to a greater or a lesser extent, on the foundations of four world’s major religions: Judaism, Islam, Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity. Within the frames of these four spiritual and conceptual circles, separate cultural traditions and mentalities have been formed, at the same time relying on each other, familiar with each other, not alien but different, as identities that one should recognize and get to know”.
As an expression of this tolerance, openness to the people of different faith and culture, Osman-pasha Bosnyak built a mosque and a church in his village, Kazanci, in Herzegovina, because they do not interfere with each other; Mufti Kurt opposed the prosecution of Serbs from a Serbian borough in Tuzla in the Second World War; Jozo Petrović, director, and Derviš Korkut, curator of the National Museum in Sarajevo saved the Jewish Haggadah in 1941.
Coexistence of Muslims and Christians in Bosnia and Herzegovina can be traced back to the second half of the 15th century. Three confessional contexts: Muslim-Bosnyak, Orthodox-Serbian and Catholic-Croatian, were joined by the fourth one in the 16th century, Sephardic Jews. The followers of these faiths developed a sense of accepting and recognizing ‘the different’ as a valuable and positive thing, not a minus.
Abandoning, betraying and alienating from this ground is the path to downfall and catastrophe. That is why future existence of Bosnian and Herzegovinian society and state is significantly determined by the quality of interactive relations among its mutually conditioned identities. Interreligious Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina works on fulfilling this mission. The Council has existed since 1997, and its activity is determined by the following goals:
1. Reduction of prejudice and raising awareness of the importance of interfaith dialogue and cooperation by improving relations among the faith communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina;
2. Improving relations between the faith communities and the state with joint efforts;
3. Connecting Interreligious Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina with regional and international institutions and initiatives.
The fundamental prerequisite to the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the renewal of traditional Bosnian and Herzegovinian society and its upgrading in the new circumstances. We believe in this possibility, despite the genocide which was committed in Srebrenica. We also believe that the existing antagonisms in the world can be overcome with sincere efforts of a great number of people for their general and common wellbeing. Commitment to interreligious dialogue has an important role in this matter. Commitment to interreligious dialogue is commitment to world peace as the greatest blessing for every human being and all national and state communities. One of the Holy Books says: “The world without peace is like bread without yeast.”
Thank you for your attention. I wish you all the best.