The European Commission hosted a meeting this week with representatives of religious organisations from across Europe. The participants debated “The Future of Europe: addressing challenges through concrete actions”. “Europe is home to people of many faiths, and every European has the right to practice his or her faith in peace and security,” said First Vice-President Frans Timmermans who was chairing the meeting (8 October).
He added that, “ahead of next year’s European elections, I reassured the participants in the meeting that the European Commission will continue to stand up and speak up against any discrimination or attacks that their communities might face.
“While we may worship in different ways, our values are universal, including our commitment to democracy and equality.”
The meeting was the 14th annual high-level meeting with religious leaders organised by the Commission. Since 2009, the dialogue with churches, religions, philosophical and non-confessional organisations is enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty.
Participants represented Catholicism, the Greek Orthodox Church, Protestantism, the Anglican Church, Islam and Judaism. They discussed in particular how the EU is addressing migration, social integration and the sustainability of our way of life.
Asked by The Brussels Times if there was a consensus among the religious leaders, a Commission spokesperson replied affirmatively. “They expressed support for a Europe based on cooperation at a time when the EU is being questioned by a political climate marked by racism and exclusion.”
Several leaders underlined that religions have a role to play, in particular through inter-religious dialogue to recall fundamental values, based on the rejection of racism. They underlined the need to develop concrete forms of solidarity, in particular through action on the ground.
How did the religious leaders look at the issue of migration, in particular the refusal of some member states to share the burden and receive non-Christian migrants? “Religious leaders did not voice criticism at any particular member state,” replied the spokesperson.
“They underlined the need to find concrete solutions by working with people on the ground – some of them referred to the practical experience they have gained working with migrant and local populations. The ‘humanitarian corridor’ experience led by Sant´Egidio (a lay community of the Catholic Church) to bring refugees to safety in Europe was mentioned.”
According to the spokesperson several leaders intend to promote discussions in their own countries in the context of the debate on Europe ahead of the elections. Some will also aim at developing a cross-border approach to this discussion by bringing religious and other participants from different EU countries.
How will the Commission consider or explore further the ideas and proposals raised at the meeting?
“The first aim of these meetings is dialogue. However, this may result in a more concrete engagement in certain areas which were discussed during the meeting, such as the fight against racism or the current discussion on ethical guidelines for Artificial Intelligence.”