The issue we are addressing is without a doubt of great importance, especially taking into account the extraordinarily dramatic and painful developments in many part of the world, which as such are generating substantial victims of different ages, sexes, ethnicities, beliefs and cultures, or places where they come from.
Unfortunately, in the times we live, these examples are plentiful. We see this every day in Syria, Iraq, Maghreb, Nigeria, and Turkey. We saw them in France, Germany, Belgium, United States, and many other places.
From the available statistics, we can observe that in these open conflicts in the Middle East are participating not only domestic folks, from which we would gather that the quarrels could be fueled by religious and sectarian differences, different beliefs, but in this conflicts we see people gravitating from all corners of the world, thereby creating a concerning mosaic of extraordinary participation.
Parallel to these heartbreaking developments and as a result of same, we are witness to great waves of refugees, especially from the Middle East, but also from other places. Their misfortunes knock painfully in the people’s conscience, in the conscience of many countries' governments and especially of Europe. We are witness to humane actions of many to provide shelter for the refugees. However, we are also witness to opposite calls of different political establishments that attack their governments as a result of this opening of gates and hearts. All this, in many countries, has polarized the political landscape to the extreme.
My dear friends,
Coming from a country that not long ago went through a war that left heavy consequences, where beside the large number of victims, we had a forced exodus of about a million people, I feel today's tragic events with a heavy heart and I am sure that you feel my sentiment as well.
Thus, I see this Conference that gathers us all today as an effort to offer our opinions for these troubling phenomena of the daily life we currently live, but also as an opportunity to find a solution to this difficult situation.
Taking into account the many dramatic developments with heavy consequences as a result of extremist activities in different geographic areas and especially in some of the above mentioned countries, I think it is important to state several factors, which want it or not, are essential and inciting generators that fuel religious extremism, thereby creating openings to act in "favorable terrains" and with grave costs.
- Places, namely countries where repeated political crisis have risked that country's stability, are necessarily fertile grounds for "new alternatives" which could be appealing to fill the political vacuum in a murky situation, be it to "address historical injustices" with rivals from other beliefs, or with "non-believers," with the idea of converting them to the true faith.
- The second context, without excluding the first, includes the situations that are present in the areas of great crisis, even of international character, in which we see international military involvement. In these areas (Syria, Iraq, Libya, etc.), concurrently there's been the development of "ripe conditions" to engage in strong propaganda, which other than inciting the feeling of "revenge" toward the intervening parties in their countries, also promotes the idea that this intervention is occurring as a result of their different faith and emphasizes the risking of their cultural and religious identity, which must be saved.
- The third and very concerning element of religious extremism is beginning to appear too frequently showing murderous rampages in centers away from the usual places of these crises, thereby creating the sense of fear and uncertainty. As a result, the victims are not scarce.
- The experience until now tells us, unfortunately, that in many part of the worlds, not enough is being done to invest in the sense of humanity, solidarity and mutual respect among ethnic and religious communities. This fall’s the most on the shoulders of religious leaders. Unfortunately, we often encounter those that have taken upon themselves the "protection of their own kind" without acknowledging that this world belongs to all of us.
Taking all these developments into account, as well as other processes that we notice daily, I will attempt to emphasize some elements that I believe carry wait and must be taken into account in our continued efforts for sustainable peace and stability:
- I believe these are decisive times when appropriate and beneficial action must be taken in the relationship between state institutions and religions, thereby providing broad solutions that surpass national boundaries, and not on case-by-case basis. This always includes the full realization of human rights and freedoms, including the religious ones based on secularism. Unfortunately too often, we have witnessed occurrences where bad state practices have been blessed by religious institutions (ex. the case of warmongering policies of Milosevic and its blessing by the Serb Orthodox Church).
- As a public and intellectual community, we can help by offering encouragement and ideas that serve in a universal plan the freedoms and interreligious tolerance in all countries across the globe. Such ideas will assist with the elimination of past practices, in many cases discriminatory ones, which motivate conflicts, disagreements and tragedies among different peoples, and sometimes even intolerance within a single ethnicity.
- Continuous interfaith dialogue is necessary. It will help with the coexistence of different faiths within a local area, but also with different cultures within a single religion. It is known that believers in one faith can come from different cultures and this cultural pluralism must be respected in its original form.
- Such a dialogue, always in good faith, would create an active interaction and conditions for the convergence of likeminded values. My people have had the fortune of belonging to three different faiths. We are Muslim, Orthodox and Catholic. Interfaith harmony and cooperation was and continues to be a unique value that we protect dearly.
- Honest efforts in integration processes of "foreigners - refugees" deed to be developed, with full respect for their diverse ethnicities, cultures and religions. As part of these efforts, especially pertaining to the countries of the old continent but also elsewhere, it is necessary to engage in the education of new generations, but also preserving their spiritual core. This purpose is difficult to achieve, if parallel to this sacrifice there are other loud projects that could rise to the level of phobias against people of different ethnicities and faiths.
- Communication with religious leaders, by institutions of countries where they act or their respective communication, especially addressing themes of encouraging the sense of respect for one another, for life and liberty, is always necessary and should never stop.
Today, our world has been attacked by two extremes. On the one end, we encounter cultural laicism, which could bring to the harming of values and feelings of the believers and, on the other end, the movement and activity of religious extremism, which strives to impose a single religious model.
Despite this, I have no doubt that the belief in a better world, with cultural and religious pluralism and tolerance, is the only alternative for all of us.
Our world is as big and as rich as our joint efforts in all corners of the world toward peace, understanding and tolerance.
At the end, while thanking you for your attention, I remind you about another important fact: a few days ago, Mother Theresa was canonized by the Holy See of the Catholic Church. I am honored as everyone of a good faith is that we live and experience a sainthood off our Mother Teresa and Albanien daughter Gonxhe Bojaxhiu!
Author: H.E. Fatmir Sejdiu
President of Kosovo (2006-2010)
President Sejdiu was one of the founders of the Democratic League of Kosovo (DLK) in 1989. He became the DLK President in 2006, a position he held until 2010. He was elected to the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo in 1992 and 1998, becoming that year Secretary General of the Assembly and President of the Committee for Constitutional Issues. He was elected again in 2001, became a member of the Assembly’s Presidency, and was re-elected in 2004. In 2006 he was elected President of Kosovo, a position he held until 2010. For 33 years, President Sejdiu has been a professor at the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Political Sciences at the University of Pristina and has published numerous scientific works.