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Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew: “Let our actions be guided by the timeless wisdom of our faith traditions” (VIDEO)

The Scientific Conference called “Partnerships in Action: Towards One Earth, One Family, One Future” took place in Constantinople yesterday, on 28 August 2023.

Addressing climate change, taking humanitarian and peacekeeping actions, ensuring access to food for all, protecting children and most vulnerable social groups was at the heart of the Scientific Meeting.

The meeting was held in the context of the ongoing academic dialogue between Christianity and Islam and is part of a series of such important meetings that provide the opportunity for fruitful dialogue on major social issues. It was organised with the support of the Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities and is under the auspices of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

Representatives of the Patriarchates and Orthodox Autocephalous Churches, Muslim religious leaders, representatives of international organisations for the promotion of interreligious dialogue, peace and protection of children, as well as academics from various countries participated in the meeting.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Conference delivered the opening speech, addressing the participants, in which he welcomed them to the Phanar:

“Esteemed religious leaders, venerable scholars, beloved brothers and sisters,

As the golden sun rises over this ancient city, a place where history paints an intricate tableau of religious, cultural, and ethnic pluralism, we gather with purpose and hope. With each exchange of dialogue and every gesture of partnership, we lay down a foundation, connecting centuries of shared history, culture, and values.

Historically, the intertwining threads of Christianity and Islam have woven stories of shared existence, bearing testimony to ages of coexistence. As inheritors of this rich legacy, we are summoned today to not only reminisce about our shared past, but to forge ahead, uniting in the face of present-day challenges.

At the monumental Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church on the island of Crete in 2016, we were reminded: “The Church lives not for herself. She offers herself for the whole of humanity in order to raise up and renew the world into new heavens and a new earth” (Holy and Great Council, 2016). This profound message transcends boundaries, beckoning all of humankind to unite for the greater good.

Both Christianity and Islam, spiritual legacies of Abraham, provide a reservoir of teachings that advocate peace, mutual respect, and stewardship of God’s creation. The sacred Psalmist beautifully captures the spirit of unity, expressing, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalms 133:1). Complementing this sentiment, the poetic genius Al-Mutanabbi professes, “He who does not have forbearance, has nothing.” These words shine as guiding stars, leading us on a path to shared comprehension.

St. Augustine of Hippo stated that “Peace is the tranquility of order.” This understanding finds echoes in the philosophical depths of Islamic tradition, with Al-Farabi asserting that a truly virtuous society fosters inner peace and common good. Such sagacious teachings offer a foundation upon which we can build a shared future.

Now, more than ever, our world stands at a pivotal crossroads. Our Earth, which has cradled civilizations and nurtured cultures, is beset with unprecedented perils. Environmental crises, from escalating climate events to the diminishing diversity of life, issue a pressing call to arms for united action. We have consistently reiterated, “The earth does not belong to us. It is a gift, and we have the moral obligation to respect and preserve it for future generations” (Bartholomew, 2018).

As faith leaders and communities, we are uniquely positioned to respond to this call. Our scriptures, traditions, and histories are replete with teachings that emphasize our duty toward the environment. It’s time we plunged deep into these repositories of wisdom to spearhead a collective, faith-based environmental movement.

Moreover, dialogue must manifest in concrete actions. Words are but the beginning; the real testament of our commitment will be the projects we initiate, the communities we uplift, and the environment we safeguard. Through initiatives grounded in our shared values, we can inspire transformation on both individual and collective levels.

To realize the vision of “One Earth, One Family, One Future,” we must transcend mere tolerance. True dialogue entails deep respect, mutual understanding, and collective action. Our scriptures offer countless narratives that champion unity, respect, and cooperation. By immersing ourselves in these narratives, we can draw inspiration for our common journey.

Our Earth, a shared sanctuary, has sheltered countless generations, each adding its own unique chapter to the saga of humanity. Our generation stands at an epochal moment, endowed with the responsibility to chart a course that guarantees peace, prosperity, and ecological balance for those yet to come.

As we navigate the challenges of the present, let our actions be guided by the timeless wisdom of our faith traditions. Let this conference be more than a mere congregation of individuals. Let it be a symphony of voices, ideas, and aspirations in order to create a transformative global movement. A movement that, guided by the words of St. Paul, embodies the spirit of “God has called us to peace” (1 Corinthians 7:15).

Let us march forth with a renewed sense of purpose, unity, and determination. Let the echoes of our dialogue reverberate through time, inspiring future generations to further strengthen and advance our fellowship. Let this historical city of myriad cultures bear witness to our pledge today: a pledge to work together, shoulder to shoulder, in shaping a world that celebrates diversity, fosters unity, and safeguards our shared Earthly oikos.

May God’s infinite blessings be a guiding light on our path, fortifying our endeavors and filling our hearts with love, compassion, and hope!

Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon also delivered a speech:

Your All Holiness,

Your Virtue,

Your Eminences,

Your Excellencies,

esteemed conference participants, sisters and brothers in faith,

In the resplendent city of Constantinople, where the minarets of mosques rise beside the steeples of churches, a profound history of convergence unfolds. Here, amidst the whispers of the Bosphorus and the echoing calls to prayer, the tales of coexistence between Christians and Muslims are etched into every brick and cobblestone. It is no coincidence that we gather in this city, a testament to the intertwining of faiths, to deliberate on the promise of unity and the imperative of understanding. As the world finds itself at the crossroads of change, our responsibility as followers of the Abrahamic traditions is greater than ever before. Together, we embark on a journey that explores our shared legacies, celebrates our unique identities, and envisions a world where both Christians and Muslims act as stewards of peace, respect, and environmental guardianship. Today, we set forth on a mission: to forge partnerships in action, to ensure that our Earth and its people have not just a future, but a harmonious and prosperous one.

The rich variety of human civilization reveals threads of shared values, histories, and hopes, especially among the adherents of Christianity and Islam. At the heart of the dialogue between these two great traditions lies a legacy defined by mutual respect and collaboration. Exploring our common history and beliefs, it’s evident that both religions promote peace, value human worth, and seek to improve the world.

The histories of Christianity and Islam intertwine at multiple points, starting with their mutual reverence for the Abrahamic tradition. Abraham’s faith and submission to the will of God have long been a beacon for followers of both religions. The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church in Crete, held in 2016, underscored the role of faith, asserting the need to “maintain unbroken the unity of the faith and the bond of love” (Holy and Great Council 5). This sentiment echoes within the Quran, which notes the legacy of Abraham and other prophets, saying: “Say, ‘We believe in God and what has been sent down to us, as well as what was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes” (Quran 2:136).

History is replete with moments when Christians and Muslims lived, worked, and thrived alongside one another. The Byzantine and Ottoman eras were characterized not only by conflicts but also by periods of coexistence and cooperation.

Ancient Greek philosophers, many of whose works were preserved thanks to Muslim scholars during the Islamic Golden Age, frequently spoke about the value of peace and cooperation. As Socrates noted, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” This view of embracing change and building together finds resonance in the words of the famous Ottoman poet and thinker Yunus Emre: “Let’s get to know each other, live in love and harmony. Trouble and distress are in the absence of love.”

Both the Bible and the Quran emphasize compassion, understanding, and respect. The New Testament proclaims, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Similarly, the Quran encourages mutual understanding: “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another” (Quran 49:13). These texts demonstrate the core shared values that exist within both religions. Prominent Greek philosopher Aristotle once wrote, “It is more fitting for a man to laugh at life than to lament over it.” In the same vein, the revered Ottoman philosopher and thinker Rumi observed, “Wherever you are, and whatever you do, be in love.” These thinkers, separated by centuries and cultures, converge on the idea of embracing life with a positive, loving attitude.

A shared past should motivate a shared future, particularly when facing pressing global challenges. One of the most urgent of these challenges is environmental stewardship. The Holy and Great Council in Crete stressed the Orthodox Church’s “responsibility to protect its God-given environment” (Holy and Great Council 10). Both faiths, in their scriptures and traditions, emphasize the importance of caring for the Earth and its creatures. Plato, an ancient Greek philosopher, astutely remarked, “The measure of a man is what he does with power.” The divine mandate in both Christianity and Islam is for humans to act as stewards of the Earth. When combined with the power of collaborative action, these teachings can lead to meaningful, positive change for the planet.

The vast canvas of humanity paints a beautiful picture of diversity, underlined by unity. When discussing Christianity and Islam, two of the world’s most followed religions, the conversation naturally gravitates towards their shared ethos and values. By embracing our distinct identities while recognizing the common ground, the two faiths can work hand in hand to foster peace, mutual respect, and a sustainable future for our planet.

Every faith carries its unique rituals, traditions, and teachings that contribute to its distinct identity. Christianity, with its myriad denominations and vast theological diversity, offers a rich tapestry of beliefs and practices. Islam, on the other hand, with its emphasis on the Five Pillars, offers a structured path to spiritual fulfillment.

The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church in Crete in 2016 noted the “diverse cultural influences at different times of history” and recognized the “need for unity and the conditions of the Church’s life in the modern world” (Holy and Great Council 12). Such sentiments echo in the Quran’s assertion that “If Allah had willed, He would have made you one nation, but [His plan is] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good” (Quran 5:48).

Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus once commented, “Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony.” This is mirrored in the verses of Ottoman poet and philosopher Yunus Emre: “Difference is the salt of life; in unity, we find the light.”

Interfaith dialogue has proven to be an invaluable tool for strengthening mutual respect and understanding between Christians and Muslims. Sharing stories, engaging in theological discussions, and participating in joint community service initiatives are just some of the ways interfaith dialogues have borne fruit. Aristotle emphasized the importance of communication in fostering understanding, noting that “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” His sentiment is beautifully paralleled by Rumi’s assertion: “Listen with ears of tolerance! See through the eyes of compassion! Speak with the language of love.”

Misunderstandings and misconceptions have, at times, cast shadows over the rich history of collaboration between Christians and Muslims. Education, both formal and informal, stands as a powerful tool to dispel myths and foster an environment of respect.

The Bible states, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). Similarly, the Quran emphasizes: “And say, ‘My Lord, increase me in knowledge’” (Quran 20:114). Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates declared, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” These teachings, spanning faiths and philosophies, underline the eternal value of learning and understanding.

Religious leaders hold a crucial responsibility in guiding their communities towards peace, collaboration, and mutual respect. Their words and actions set the tone for interfaith interactions at the grassroots level. The Holy and Great Council’s statement resonates powerfully in this context: “The Church is the presence of Christ in the world, as Christ is the presence of God in the world” (Holy and Great Council 15). The essence of this statement is mirrored in Islam, where the Quran mentions, “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” (Quran 49:13). Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus’s assertion that “It is not so much our friends’ help that helps us, as the confidence of their help” finds a beautiful parallel in the words of the renowned Ottoman poet and Sufi mystic Rumi: “Beyond the rightness or wrongness of things, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

One of the most pressing challenges of our age is environmental degradation. As stewards of the Earth, both faiths emphasize the importance of protecting our planet. Working collaboratively in this realm can lead to significant positive outcomes for the environment. Plato’s profound observation, “What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality,” is a testament to the transformative power of inner conviction. This sentiment finds resonance in the thoughts of Ottoman scholar and poet Ibn Arabi, who noted, “He who knows himself, knows his Lord.”

By harnessing the teachings and principles of both faiths, there’s an opportunity to foster a global movement, one that not only promotes interfaith harmony but also works towards a greener, sustainable future for the planet. The path forward is illuminated by the lessons of our shared past and the wisdom of our religious texts. Embracing our differences while celebrating our shared goals can lead to a world defined by peace, mutual respect, and a collective effort to protect and cherish our Earth.

Upon the precipice of environmental and societal changes, our planet’s need for collaborative stewardship becomes evident. Christians and Muslims, accounting for over half of the global population, possess the spiritual influence and shared values to pave the way for sustainable unity and environmental healing.

Religious scriptures and teachings are replete with references to man’s duty towards creation. In Christianity, the Bible underlines, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). This message echoes the sentiments of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church in 2016, which stressed the importance of “respecting the environment as God’s creation” and highlighted the consequences of its “destructive exploitation” (Holy and Great Council 18). Parallelly, in Islam, the Qur’an signifies the Earth as a testament to divine wonder, with the directive, “It is He who made the earth tame for you – so walk among its slopes and eat of His provision – and to Him is the resurrection” (Quran 67:15). This verse doesn’t merely emphasize gratitude but also signifies responsible stewardship.

Plato acknowledged the world as a living being with a soul, emphasizing the interconnectedness of all life forms. In his work Timaeus, he writes, “The world, which is a living creature with a soul, came into being as a result of divine providence” (Plato, Timaeus 30). This philosophical thought mirrors the musings of Ottoman poet Şeyh Galip, who wrote, “Nature and man, in essence, are a mirror to the Divine; their beauty and existence a reflection of the Creator’s grace.”

Today’s challenges, ranging from climate change to deforestation, underscore our moral and religious duty to act. Our ancestors, in their wisdom, left behind teachings and philosophies that foresaw the importance of harmonious coexistence with nature. Aristotle, with his teleological view of nature, believed everything has a purpose or end. He said, “Nature does nothing uselessly” (Politics, 1256b25). This concept aligns with the words of Yunus Emre, an Ottoman thinker, who reflected, “If you’ve broken a flower’s stem, you’ve harmed our world; if you’ve healed a soul, you’ve healed ours.”

Joint initiatives between Christians and Muslims around the world have sprouted, aimed at environmental conservation. Interfaith forests, community gardens, and ecological seminars are a testament to the synergies of shared values. The words of the Bible inspire such collaboration, stating, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). This message finds an echo in the Qur’an, which mentions, “And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression” (Quran 5:2). Socrates’ insight that “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new” encourages innovation in collaborative environmental efforts. Ottoman philosopher Ibn Khaldun, too, emphasized the need for cooperation, suggesting, “In the community, the well-being of everyone is the well-being of everyone else.”

Our collective future hinges on the decisions we make today. A vision rooted in mutual respect, understanding, and collaboration between Christians and Muslims can spur global transformation. As Heraclitus wisely stated, “Character is destiny,” suggesting that the essence of our shared values will shape our collective future. This is mirrored in the poetic musings of Rumi: “What you seek is seeking you.” The path towards environmental healing and unity is carved with the tools of mutual respect, shared values, and collaborative action. By embracing the wisdom of the past and the energies of the present, Christians and Muslims can indeed steer the world towards a brighter, greener tomorrow.

In an increasingly interconnected world, where the actions of one reverberate to affect all, Christians and Muslims are presented with an unparalleled opportunity. By joining hands in solidarity and recognizing our shared commitment to peace, respect, and environmental stewardship, both communities can look forward to a brighter future for all of humanity.

Centuries before the digital age connected us instantaneously, ancient Greek philosophers pondered the intricate relationships binding humans to one another and to the cosmos. The philosopher Aristotle posited that “Man is by nature a social animal” (Aristotle, Politics). His words echo the belief that our destinies are intertwined, as the Bible says, “So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:5). The Quran, too, in its timeless wisdom, states: “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another” (Quran, 49:13). This recognition, that we are meant to understand and appreciate each other’s unique experiences and perspectives, is essential for a harmonious coexistence.

History shows us that challenges amplify our innate strength when tackled together. The Ottoman poet Yunus Emre wrote, “Come, let us all be friends for once, let us make life easy on us, let us be lovers and loved ones, the earth shall be left to no one” (Yunus Emre, The Drop that Became the Sea). This beautifully encapsulates the sentiment that unity and collaboration are not just our aspirations but necessities. During the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church in Crete in 2016, church leaders reinforced the importance of dialogue and cooperation among religions. In a statement echoing Emre’s thoughts, they said, “The Orthodox Church follows with concern and prays for the overcoming of the challenges and dangers of our time” (“Holy and Great Council,” 2016). Today’s challenges require a collaborative response, bridging gaps between faiths to tackle issues that threaten our shared future.

Drawing upon the teachings of both the Bible and the Quran, we find unwavering calls for peace. In the words of Jesus Christ, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Equally, the Quran emphasizes: “And if they incline to peace, then incline to it [also] and rely upon Allah. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing” (Quran, 8:61). The ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates, once said, “One should never do wrong in return, nor mistreat any man, no matter how one has been mistreated by him” (Plato, Crito). A testament that respects and peace are principles deeply embedded in the fabric of human thought.

Environmental crises, from global warming to resource scarcity, are challenges that transcend borders and beliefs. In our shared commitment to protect the planet, Christians and Muslims can find common ground. The Bible and the Quran alike emphasize stewardship of the Earth. In Genesis, we are reminded that God saw every creation and declared it “very good” (Genesis 1:31), entrusting it to humanity’s care. The Quran similarly states: “And it is He who produced for you hearing and vision and hearts; little are you grateful” (Quran, 23:78), a poignant reminder of our responsibility to cherish and protect God’s creations. In this quest to preserve the environment and work towards a just society, the vision for the future is clear: one Earth, one family, and one shared future. To transform this vision into reality, it requires the active collaboration and commitment of both Christians and Muslims, drawing upon the rich legacies of mutual respect, understanding, and shared purpose.

As our time together in this ancient city of bridges and crossroads comes to a close, we are reminded of the impermanence of moments but the enduring nature of ideas. The conversations we’ve had, the bridges we’ve begun to build, and the dreams we’ve envisioned together will leave an indelible mark on our shared histories. Constantinople, with its deep roots in both our traditions, has served as more than just a backdrop; it has been a living testament to the possibilities of unity and the strength of diversity.

Our shared narrative is far from over. Let this not be the end, but rather a spirited beginning—a clarion call to communities, leaders, and individuals around the world. The path to understanding is lifelong, but with every step taken in respect and collaboration, we draw closer to a world where our faiths not only coexist but thrive together. As we part ways, let us carry with us the lessons learned, the friendships formed, and the hope that one day, our collective efforts will lead to that envisioned future: One Earth, One Family, One Future.

More Photos: Nikos Papachristou / Ecumenical Patriarchate