A central issue of this conference, held by the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and Cumberland Lodge from 14-16 December 21018, and co-hosted by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), was how states treat people of different religious affiliation, respecting the rights of every person, including their freedom of religion or belief.
The conference emphasised the need for states to implement equal status for and treatment of all its citizens, instead of continuing with a system of a majority granting certain minority rights. In order to achieve this, a principle of ‘moderate secularism’ – that is moving towards secular laws and state institutions, not society – might be a way forward, establishing state neutrality towards people and communities of all religions and beliefs.
“We are aware that in Europe, when we talk about justice for minorities, we also look for everyone to have the status of equal citizens. This point, as our partners in the Middle East have stressed, requires more attention and clarification”, commented Rev Christian Krieger, President of CEC.
The conference also addressed other concrete challenges and opportunities in countries such as Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria. Participants expressed a need for churches to continue a peaceful and constructive dialogue amongst themselves and with other faiths.
The contribution of a living Christian presence in the Middle East was considered important to counter religious hatred, violence and terrorism. Participants stressed that education is one of the key elements in overcoming prejudices. The need to become advocates for each other’s human rights remains a common task for all Christians and people of good will. While the notion of tolerance has different interpretations, an agreement could be reached that people should try to move from mere tolerance to respect, valuing the contribution of everybody.
You can read more details of the conference on the CEC website.