16th EPP Group Annual Interreligious Dialogue: peace-building and conflict resolution in the Mediterranean region

Evangelia Mitsopoulou
14.10.2013 - 17:30
Northern Nicosia

The EPP Group will discuss in Nicosia, Cyprus, on 17 and 18 October 2013 the role of religions in the peace-building and conflict resolution in the Mediterranean Region. The location of Cyprus, in a politically sensitive and volatile geographic area and at the crossroad of faiths and civilisations, offers the perfect platform for such a debate but also stresses the country’s natural role in supporting international efforts to promote security and stability in the region.

Interreligious dialogue for peace in the Mediterranean

The dialogue among Christians, Muslims and Jews for peace in the Mediterranean, will be the opening theme of the meeting where prominent speakers, representing all faiths in the region, will be presenting their views about the freedom of religion as a fundamental human right. Jan Olbrycht MEP, Vice Chairman of the EPP Group, responsible for Intercultural Activities and Interreligious Dialogue, will be chairing the debate where H.E. Metropolitan Emmanuel, Archbishop of France, representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch to the EU, Rabbi Arie Zeev Raskin, Chief Rabbi of Cyprus and H.E. Archbishop Youssef Soueif, Maronite Eparchy of Cyprus will be amongst the key speakers.

Combatting fundamentalism to promote political stabilisation

Fundamentalism as a factor of political instability will be the theme of the second debate where religious leaders and politicians will explore the effects of religious fundamentalism in societies and how this can exacerbate struggles by preventing compromise. The duty of political and religious leaders is to combat extremism and promote mutual respect among individuals and religious groups. Jaime Mayor Oreja MEP, Vice-Chairman of the EPP Group, will be chairing the meeting where Elmar Brok MEP, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the EP, H.E. Archbishop Seraphim Kykkotis, Metropolitan of the Greek Archbishopric of Zimbabwe, Head of the Office for International Affairs of the Greek Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa, H.E. Bishop Kyrillos Kamal William Samaan O.F.M., Coptic Catholic Bishop of Assiut, Egypt, and Dr. Yousef Bataineh, Director of the European Affairs department in Ministry of Foreign Affairs and expatriates in Jordan as well as Tasos Mitsopoulos, Minister of Communications and Works of the Republic of Cyprus will be amongst the key speakers.

Protect the religious heritage to build mutual respect

The protection of religious heritage will be the focus of another panel debate of the meeting, where the preservation of life, religious activities and the architectural treasures as a sign of civilisation will be stressed. Inevitably, the protection of religious authenticity and integrity as well as the sharing of knowledge of common history will promote building mutual respect and dialogue between communities and will prevent any gradual loss of the different traditions. László Surján MEP, Vice-President of the EP, Responsible for Dialogue with Religions will be chairing the debate where Regina Lynch, Director of projects, Aid to Church in Need International, Eleni Theocharous MEP, Head of the Cypriot Delegation of the EPP Group and Miroslav Mikolásik MEP as well as Kyriakos Kenevezos, Minister of Education and Culture of the Republic of Cyprus will be amongst the key speakers.

Coexistence of religions in times of increased religious discrimination and intolerance

At a time when government repression and social hostility against individuals and groups from various religious or belief backgrounds are on the increase in the broader area of the Mediterranean region, the discussion on coexistence of religions is a huge challenge for politicians and religious leaders to debate upon. Discrimination and intolerance based on religion and belief can only destabilise a society. Reconciliation and reflection and finding ways of utilising the potential of coexistence of religions can only contribute to political peace and stability. Vito Bonsignore MEP, Vice-Chairman of the EPP Group, responsible for the Euro-Mediterranean Group Strategy will be chairing this debate where Alojz Peterle MEP, Prof. Dr. Fatimah Husein, from the Islamic State University of Sunan Kalijaga, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and Maroun Karam, Representative of the Maronite Community in Beirut, Lebanon, will be amongst the key speakers.

Challenges lying ahead the Mediterranean region

The conclusions of the meeting as well as the challenges lying ahead will be discussed in the final session of the meeting chaired by Manfred Weber MEP, Vice-Chairman of the EPP Group responsible for the permanent Working Group on Legal and Home Affairs. Ioannis Kasoulides, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, H.B. Patriarch Mar Béchara Boutros Raï, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, Carlo Casini MEP, Chairman of the EP Committee on Legal Affairs and Eija-Riitta Korhola MEP will be amongst the key speakers.

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