Global Integration and Civilizational Diversity of Humanity

Address by Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate at the inaugural meeting of the European Council of Religious Leaders
(Oslo, Norway, 11-12 November 2002)

Dear brothers and sisters, dear participants of this esteemed gathering!

I wholeheartedly greet you all who have gathered here for the inaugural meeting of the European Council of Religious Leaders. I am deeply convinced that the time has come to establish such an organization on the European continent. The division of Europe into two ideologically hostile camps now belongs to a bygone era. It appears that the 21st century will not be a century of ideologies. Too much blood had been poured and too many resources had been wasted in the 20th century for the sake of the triumph of ideological doctrines, and it seems that humanity is not willing to repeat this dramatic experience. Yet, the ideological factor is evidently not the only one, which can potentially lead to and is already leading to conflicts and even wars. A great diversity lays in the foundation of humanity and its culture. This diversity manifests the beauty and uniqueness of God's creation and is to serve the revealing of the inner potential of the human person and nations.

There are no two identical nations, as there are no two identical human persons. Humanity at present consists of several great models of civilization. These models have much in common, but there are also differences among them, sometimes considerable ones. The differences can be found in outer forms and in the systems of values, which have been shaped first of all under the influence of religious, and of philosophical, social and political, economic and cultural factors and which determine the specific features of a particular model of civilization. Many people today clearly see that the peaceful future of humanity largely depends on its ability to bring the existing models of civilization into harmonious cooperation in the context of globalization.

When we talk about Eastern Christian civilization, which arose under the influence of Orthodoxy, one should underline the importance of a religious ideal for it. This ideal is connected not only with the private, but also with public life, as well as with the ordering of the family, the collective, the nation and the state. The Christian East has other characteristic features, such as the indisputable priority of the spiritual over the material, of self-denial and self-restriction over the aspiration for the earthly success, of common interests over private ones, of the faithfulness to the truth and ideals over wordly benefits and earthly wellbeing.

For instance, the attempts to destroy this scale of values through unpopular views on private and public life propagated in the first place by the electronic mass media and advertisements, as well as the growth of the consumerist trends and individualism create considerable tension in Russian society.

Some of the values which are characteristic of Eastern Christian civilization are also characteristic of other models of civilization, which have come into being with the religious factor playing the decisive role. The Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist worlds have their own traditional systems of values, which in many aspects connect with Eastern Christian values.

As far as the Western world is concerned, a particular standard of civilization has been established there as a result of the philosophical, social and political development, which began with the Reformation and continued during the epoch of the Enlightenment and the revolutions in Europe. This standard is based on the so called liberal principle, which proclaims individual freedoms as the highest value. The structure of society as a whole is arranged in a way to ensure the maximum possible realization of the individual rights and freedoms.

Since the establishment of international intergovernmental organizations this axiological system, which appeared in the context of the West European and North American social development, has been laid as the foundation of the activities of these organizations, and subsequently as the foundation of the European process of integration.

One should note that the Soviet Union and the Eastern block did not take a real part in the development of the foundations of international cooperation on the philosophical level. At that time the Soviet diplomats pursued concrete political ends such as to use the UN system and other organizations for exerting political and ideological pressure on the states of the so called developing world in the first place. Those diplomats could not, even if they so wished, bring the values of the Eastern Christian tradition into philosophical debates. Those were the circumstances of the time. I am not quite sure that the diplomats from the Muslim countries, or from the countries where the Buddhist culture is dominant, were directed by their governments to bring the dominant values of the cultures, which they represented into the formation of the basis of ideas of international cooperation. The lack of dialogue between the politicians and religious leaders, who were removed from the process of establishing intergovernmental organizations, has been a historical mistake. It is very important to maintain and support such a dialogue with all means possible at the present stage of European integration into which former East European countries have been invited and part of which belong to the Eastern Christian world with a considerable Muslim and Jewish presence.

As I said earlier, this is important because the values of the Western model of civilization form the basis of the European integration. While the integration of Europe was carried out within the boundaries of the Western cultural space, that seemed historically justified and effective. However, the fundamental values of other cultural worlds must be included into the philosophical basis of integration in order that Europe may become a common home also for those who belong to them.

Historical experience demonstrates convincingly that a society with many cultures and religions, yet which is built on the basis of the monopoly of a single cultural project is not viable.

During the time of the Soviet Union we, the believing citizens of that country experienced life in a society where there was only one dominant ideology. It may be that only the Church and culture could create a realm of their own not subject to spiritual dictatorship. The totalitarian system seemed to be strong and stable, but was destroyed. This result gives us ground to suppose that a system where there is only one ideology is not viable in principle. Couldn't we say the same about the present tendency to the monopoly of a single, namely the Western liberal standard of civilization, though millions of people adhere to other standards?

This tendency is apparent not only in Europe. It evidently dominates the process of globalization. Also evident is another thing: the monopoly of a single standard of civilization and the attempts to encourage millions of people to live according to the rules of the others is a very dangerous undertaking. Under the circumstances, in which terror becomes a means of struggle, the consequences of this dominance are unpredictable. According to some estimation, many of the recent terrorist acts have been an expression of the radical opposition to the world order, which is being shaped. We are even threatened with the global conflict of civilizations and cultures. Certainly, no arguments can justify terrorism. Humanity should say a resolute 'No' to any attempt to blackmail and pressure, as a result of which innocent people die. Also, there cannot be double standards in the evaluation of the actions of the terrorists. People who take hostages and blow up apartment houses cannot be called terrorists in New York or in the Middle East, while being called insurgents fighting for their independence in Moscow.

We must do everything possible now so that the difference in cultural standards and models will not be used by those who use terrorism for the sake of the 'sacred' struggle for the faith and for a traditional way of life. The diversity of civilizations in the world should bring about cooperation and mutual enrichment rather than confrontation of force. It is extremely important to find a certain modus of cooperation between the models of civilization, which would ensure a peaceful and prosperous future for the whole planet.

Certainly, no one is saying that we should abandon liberal values, which have been brought into the culture and legal systems of many countries. Yet I think that liberal standards should be supplemented with other cultural and philosophical systems and all of them should be brought into harmony. Moreover, it should be done not on the level of declarations about friendship and mutual respect, but rather on the level of the reformation of legal and global governance.

It is necessary to recognize the equality of different models of culture and philosophies of life. Otherwise, a new form of ideological imperialism may provoke even more confrontations than those that we know from the history of the epoch of colonialism.

We must attain a situation in which all nations can live freely in accordance with their choice, while the international system will respect this choice and will not try to impose any other one, and will develop such laws and take such decisions that will be equally acceptable to different nations and different models of civilization.

In my opinion, the best situation would be where the liberal standard would not suppress national legislation but rather contribute to the versatile and free development of the states and societies in such spheres as the relationship between the state and religion, education, culture, and personal, family and social morality. In case of a particular conflict, preference should be given to a referendum on the national level. For instance, society should express its free will concerning the legality of abortions. All points of view should be presented in the mass media before the referendum. It is wrong to insult and suppress the traditional approach and put ideological labels on it.

Dear participants of the gathering! The idea of restoring European unity in the dogmatic, cultural and even political aspect has never died either in the East, or in the West, even in the most difficult years. The idea of a united Europe, of comprehensive international union and even a common state in the European space has existed for thousands of years.

Yet, it is necessary to understand that Eastern Europe does not want to blindly follow the rules developed some time ago by someone without its participation and without the consideration of its inhabitants' philosophy of life simply because these rules are applied at present in the materially prospering countries of the West.

Eastern Christian civilization, like any other civilization, has given rise to an original way of life of its own. Its philosophy and form have appeared in the result of the efforts of many generations of people who professed Orthodoxy and who tried to build up their private and social life in accordance with their religious and cultural tradition.

I am deeply convinced that the modern social order should give people an opportunity to live and act according to the norms of their faith. Therefore the Church and other religions should not be limited by their participation in discussing matters, which concern their legal status, interreligious relations, etc.

I state that representatives of our Church are prepared to take part in discussing the problems of Pan-European security, social activities, the ethics of applying modern technologies, etc. The major task of our cooperation with the European international structures will be the formation of a varied mechanism of dialogue among civilizations.

As to the concrete initiatives of the participation of religious leaders in the life of Europe today, I would name the entry of our Council into the systematic dialogue with the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Council of Europe and with other European international structures. We should think over practical mechanisms of such cooperation, maybe in the form of a permanent office of the European Council of Religious Leaders at the European international organizations.

Religious leaders have something to say to the politicians. Also, we are willing to listen to them in order to understand how we can best serve the people, reconcile and unite them. I hope that our dialogue with the European structures of governance will become permanent, systematic, open and serious and that it will serve the good of people who live on our continent. Thank you for your attention.