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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!
- Bartholomew. “Message for the Day of Prayer for the Protection of Creation.” Ecumenical Patriarchate, 2018.
- Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church. “The Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today’s World.” Crete, 2016.
- The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV). Crossway Bibles, 2016.
- Al-Mutanabbi. Selected Poems. Translated by A.J. Arberry, Cambridge University Press, 1967.
- Augustine of Hippo. Confessions. Translated by Henry Chadwick, Oxford University Press, 1991.
- Al-Farabi. Alfarabi’s Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. Translated by Muhsin Mahdi, Free Press, 1962.
photos: Nikos Papachristou / Ecumenical Patriarchate