Second stage in preparations for the 3d European Ecumenical Assembly
Moscow - 20070228 - Christians of various denominations from different countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States and Baltic region met on February 27-28, 2007, at the Moscow Patriarchate’s Pilgrims Center in Moscow, to discuss the theme “Europe Today: God, Man and Society: Human Rights and Moral Dimension. In attendance were representatives of Christian Churches and communities in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine.
The meeting, initiated by the Russian Orthodox Church, was held in the framework of the second, regional, stage of preparations for the 3d Ecumenical Assembly to culminate on September 4-9, 2007 in Sibiu, Romania.
On February 27, the key speakers on the main theme were Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, Archbishop Edmund Ratz, head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and other states, and Rev. Ilmar Tolstovs, Roman Catholic Church in Latvia. Each of the presentations was followed by discussion, in which the shared positions of the participants on a number of issues were identified.
The session on February 28, was devoted to prospects for inter-Christian relations in the CIS and Baltic countries and preparations for the final stage in the preparations for the 3d European Ecumenical Assembly. The meeting was addressed by representatives of the key organizers of the 3d Ecumenical Assembly including the Ven. Colin Williams, secretary general of the Conference of European Churches, and Rev. Ladislav Nemet, who represented the Council of Episcopal Conferences in Europe (Roman Catholic Church).
Addressing their brothers and sisters in the CIS and Baltic countries as well as all members of the 3d Ecumenical Assembly, the participants ask them to pay attention to a number of ideas and proposals expressed in Moscow.
1. “The LORD is my light and my salvation”, the Psalmist exclaims in Ps. 27:1. Reflecting God’s light, we, according to the word of the Lord Jesus Christ, should be the light of the world (Mt. 5:14). “The light of Christ illumines all” – this words of the Orthodox liturgy, which have become the motto of the 3d European Ecumenical Assembly, call us to be witnesses to the Gospel’s truth in today’s society, in which many have rejected faith but in which there is a considerable number of people searching for the meaning of life in their spiritual thirst and finding it in the Christian faith. Our task as people who call themselves the followers of Christ is to bring people to God, the Fountain of living waters (Jer. 2:13).
2. The Assembly, as a representative gathering of Christians from all over Europe, should become a place for considering processes which make a real impact on the spiritual state of European nations. It is Europe as compared to other parts of the world that has proved to be the most vulnerable to the spiritually destructive influences of utilitarian materialism, consumerism, aggressive secularism, lack of faith and moral relativism.
3. In this situation, a great responsibility is placed on European Christians. It will depend on us whether Europe will remain faithful to its ages-old Christian heritage, whether it will retain its face or will perish in history under the influence of powerful external forces. We should find an answer to many acute questions that society raises before people of faith.
4. Many of modern challenges seem to be fundamentally new. However, they prove as a rule to be only a modified form of the old dispute between belief and non-belief. The age-old discussion on the place of religion in the life of society, the right of believers to determine freely the traditions, principles and rules of their life in society also continues.
5. Interaction between religious tradition and the secular liberal view of man remains an important problem. The most topical expression of this problem is the discussion around the theme of human rights. In the course of this discussion, the question is asked whether it is inevitable that human rights as well as moral norms – which we believe to be given by God wheras the secular awareness believe them to be purely human therefore changeable inventions - should be set against religious tradition. Meanwhile, the idea of human rights can and must not be divisive but uniting principle in dialogue between religion and secular society. To this end, it is necessary to see to it that human rights are not viewed in isolation from the ethical dimension.
6. Man as the image of God possesses of God-given freedom, and his rights should be respected by both state and society. Christians can and must use human rights mechanisms to defend their faith, their way of life and their system of values, while showing concern for the well-being of every individual living in society. At the same time, for traditional Christian awareness, the idea of individual rights and freedoms is closely bound up with the idea of moral and civic responsibility. It is our conviction that without a solid moral foundation rooted in God’s eternal truth, society will not be able to cope with the spiritual crisis, nor to build an adequate social and economic order, to live a ‘peaceful and serene life’ (Orth. Lit.), to preserve God’s beautiful world suitable for life.
7. We are convinced of the destructive nature of such tendencies in human rights interpretation as corrosion of the traditional notion of family, calls to acknowledge “same sex unions”, attempts to legalize drugs, assertions of moral suitability of abortions and euthanasia, “culture of death”, obtrusive propaganda of inter-ethnic and interreligious enmity, violence, laxity, homosexuality and other sins dangerous for both individual and society.
8. Among socially significant tasks facing Christians in the 21th century is support of family, which is the basic element of society, acquires a special importance. The strong healthy and solid family, in which relations of faithfulness between husband and wife dominate and proper upbringing is given to children, should become an ideal for society.
9. From our point of view, the Christian spiritual and moral message should be present in the world of politics, economy, culture and mass media. We have no less rights than non-believers to make our voice heard in society, so that it may influence on decision-making on the rules of behavior and way of life developing in it.
10. Pointing to the shared positions on this and many other urgent problems raised by society before Christians in Europe, representatives of Christian Churches and communities in the CIS and Baltic countries at their meeting in Moscow state their commitment to the traditional values of Christianity and call their brothers and sisters in the European continent to join this commitment.
11. Aware of the need to develop inter-Christian dialogue and cooperation between the CIS and Baltic countries, the participants announced the resumption of the work of the Christian Inter-confessional Advisory Committee (CIAC) as a body intended for direct communication and cooperation with one another and giving an opportunity for us to present to society our, in many ways consonant, position on problems of concern for our nations, Europe and the world.