We are delighted to be among you once again at this 26th Eurasian Economic Summit organized by the Marmara Foundation and our dear friend, Dr. Akkan Suver, among distinguished leaders of the corporate world and civil society, but also in the presence of esteemed religious leaders. All of us care deeply about the welfare of our nation specifically and of our world generally. In this setting, we have learned to trust and inform one another, as well as to inform our minds and transform our hearts for the sake of a more sustainable and peaceful planet.
This year, we are addressing the challenge of climate change in the aftermath of a deadly pandemic that affected 700 million and claimed the lives of 7 million people. Covid–19 tested the resilience of every nation and brought out the very best in our world’s first responders and medical personnel, including doctors, nurses and volunteers. The Greek word for crisis (κρίσις) indicates and implies a pivotal moment against which we are judged for the way we respond. This is because a crisis often provides a unique opportunity to demonstrate sensitivity and solidarity with other human beings. We saw this most recently in the wake of the tragic earthquakes and painful suffering of our own nation that still mourns the loss of loved ones and the destruction of entire cities.
However, we are also considering the issue of climate change in the context of the unjustifiable and unprovoked invasion over one year ago of the Russian Federation (the largest country on the European continent) on the sovereign territory of Ukraine (the second largest European nation)—two people that not only border each other, but also share a rich history, culture and faith. The legendary account of the Russian Primary Chronicle tells how, in the ninth century, Prince Vladimir sent out emissaries to determine which faith to choose for his people. When the envoys visited Haghia Sophia, they were so overwhelmed with the art and architecture that they exclaimed: “We have never seen such heavenly beauty on earth!” It is through Kyiv that the Russian people were introduced to and baptized into Orthodox Christianity.
Nevertheless, the last year has revealed an abuse of power and force, along with an exploitation of nature and resources as Russia has disregarded the human and ecological integrity of a country that demands and deserves independence and freedom. What is worse—at least from our own perspective, from the position of religion and faith—the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate has humiliated itself by submitting unconditionally to the Russian State and by endorsing unequivocally the bloody military invasion. We have consistently and persistently condemned both the injurious war by President Putin and the immoral support by Patriarch Kiril, who has even “spiritualized” the hostility and bloodshed by assuring innocent soldiers that they will find their reward in heaven if they subdue their brothers in Ukraine.
We have repeatedly emphasized that the way we respond to climate change and war inevitably determines and defines our worldview and our vision for the future of our planet. We are accountable for the damage that we cause in our world—both human death and environmental destruction. As political and religious leaders, we must always advocate for peace, not conflict; for life, not death; and for preservation, not devastation.
We are all responsible for restoring our communities and for sustaining God’s creation. And we are all accountable—whether directly or indirectly, whether by participation or through indifference—for the violence inflicted on our brothers and sisters but also for the violation of the natural environment in every part of the world. Indeed, we are also responsible for the consequences of aggression and violence on human life and climate change, on poverty and inequality, but also on food shortage and energy renewal. Because all of us are intricately and inseparably interconnected and interdependent. This is a lesson that we have learned painfully over the last three years with the novel coronavirus and over the last year with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Distinguished colleagues and participants,
How will we justify to our children and to our children’s children that we have cared for our neighbor and for the planet that we shall bequeath to them? Future generations deserve a world that isfree from degradation, violence and bloodshed. It is up to us to leave behind for them a world of selflessness and harmony. Otherwise, we shall be answerable to them and to God.
Thank you. May God bless you, your families, and your colleagues.