Conference Religion in the Modern World – Intervento del Presidente Romano Prodi
Intervento Presidente Romano Prodi
Conference Religion in the Modern World
Tehran, 13 ottobre 2008
Many thanks to the Foundation for Dialogue among Civilizations chaired by Seyed Mohammad Khatami, to the Club of Madrid chaired by Mary Robinson and to the Oslo Center chaired by Kjell Magne Bondevik.
We all understand that in 1989 the end of the blockades didn’t touch only international relationships and geopolitics. It also affected Religions’ role as channels for hope.
Deprived from ideology’s support, politics ended up filling the channels of “religiosity”.
It built aspiration of hegemony and needs for visibility that couldn’t be otherwise fulfilled. Politics, therefore, decided to play on two intertwined elements: “Religious” violence and “Religious” fear.
The simple declaration of illegitimacy will not cancel out the consequences both of violence and of fear.
Simply listing or reading passages bearing a message contrary to violence and fear from the Koran, the Gospels or other scriptures cannot, by itself, dissipate fear and violence.
Indeed, within any religions tradition there are those who believe that only fear and violence can affirm who they are and defend the spiritual heritage of which they feel part.
This should be the starting point, in order to understand the importance and the limit of the theory of global ethos elaborates by Tubingen’s Catholic theologian, Hans Kung’s.
He is convinced that peace among nations cannot exist without peace among Religions, and that peace among Religions cannot exist without dialogue.
Kung therefore, “distils” from all cultures a series of fundamental principles that teach respect for life, truthfulness, dignity, and protection of the whole creation.
In the same years, however, Religious violence and Religious fear have grown.
Everywhere small minorities devote their time spreading violence and fear.
And, at the same time, they claim for themselves the status of authentic interpreters of their tradition.
They believe and claim to be strong and coherent, different from the “weak beleivers”.
They claim to be non-relativist, distinguished from the compromisers.
We need to stop thinking about Religions’ power as if these situations and these behaviour are given for granted and impossible is be changed.
It is time to look not at Religions as they are today, but at their capability and possibility of being open to a necessary evolution.
After all, it is already quite easy to find Rabbis, Bishops, Ayatollahs, Muftis and Pastors willing to exchange signs of warm affection. We all know, however, that these gestures of friendship, though precious, are not effective.
Even men of dialogue who occupied positions of great power (John Paul II is an example within the Catholic Church) weren’t able to prevent this conflict from spreading.
The academic and educational effort should be aimed at making the possibilities for reform, hidden inside each Religion’s tradition, emerge. Once unveiled, these possibilities must be deeply analyzed.
The historical breadth of each Religion shows that there have been in the past and could be again today religious experiences. Even more radical, but mostly focused on the spiritual sphere. This would cast doubts on what today’s fear/violence fundamentalism presents itself as eternal and unchangeable.
Even we, western countries, face a recurrent problem.
Not only we, Western countries, can or want to give up resorting to Religion in the matter of politics.
We want to use Religion to regulate fear and violence of our societies.
Indeed, as a matter of facts, politics has too often the necessity to justify its place in the world. And sometimes, to alleviate the dismay before the inability to transmit its legacy of ethical, political and civil values (for instance to new generations).
Therefore politics is looking for an ultimate point of reference.
Within this framework, room is being made to brands of Christianity that present themselves not only as a faith but as a cement to be used to keep society and politics together, replacing vanished ideologies.
This trend is a threat to democracy, even more when politics and region push together to extreme behaviours (the most extreme example is voluntary martyrdom).
We need something like a major “pure science” experiment: a worldwide “ring” enabling the circulation of basic research an in order to allow religions to talk each other with the goal to find a common language.
We need an ever-deeper understanding of the spiritual vocation of the different religions and of their mutual relationships.
Integralist minorities will not disappear because of this, as if by magic: they will always exist.
This evolution, however, will strip them of their flag of purity and radicalism in which they wrap themselves. It will show that they are simply political lobbies sclaves of the political power.
Il Prof. Prodi, agganciando queste riflessioni alla sua esperienza politica, ha poi aggiunto alcune osservazioni riguardanti le proposte elaborate nel periodo in cui era Presidente della Commissione Europea, per una politica di vicinato tra la sponda nord e la sponda sud del Mediterraneo con la creazione di strutture comuni tra i paese del nord e del sud.
Tali proposte prevedevano in primo luogo la creazione di una Banca di Investimenti per lo Sviluppo del Mediterraneo con poteri uguali fra Paesi del Nord e del Sud e di strutture universitarie con uguale numero di professori e di studenti del Nord e del Sud.
L’istruzione e azioni comuni nel campo dell’apprendimento delle lingue, dello scambio di studenti e di iniziative nel settore dei media sono infatti reputati tra gli strumenti più utili per una preparazione efficate al dialogo e alla comprensione reciproca.