Building Europe together ” “

Widespread concerns and common goals emerged in the meeting between political institutions and religious faiths " "

“Prayer can promote peace-building”. Pope Francis’s recent initiative that brought together the Palestinian and Israeli presidents for a joint prayer for peace was evoked on June 10 in Brussels in the seat of the EU commission, in the framework of the meeting between community institutions and representatives of religious communities in Europe. Participants in the annual meeting, enshrined in article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty, addressed themes regarding the future of Europe, political integration, the relations of the EU with its neighbours in Eastern Europe and in the Mediterranean, as well as unemployment and social crisis against the backdrop of the role of Churches and religious communities in the public arena. Policymakers and spiritual guides. Religious dignitaries and Community representatives observed a minute’s silence “in respect of the victims of the tragic attack in the Jewish museum in Brussels on 24 and adopted a joint declaration regarding Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese Christian sentenced to death for apostasy. The EU was represented by the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the Executive, José Manuel Barroso (for both, nearing the end of their mandate and not eligible for another term in office, it was the last rendez-vous), and by the Vice President of the European Parliament. The Catholic delegation was led by card. Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Freising-Munich and President of COMECE (Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community), accompanied by the Archbishop of Strasbourg Jean-Pierre Grallet and Margaret S. Archer, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Next to them were high-level representatives from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Mormon communities. Reasons for concern, common values. José Manuel Barroso summarized the highlights of the debate between policymakers and religious leaders. He said: “Many of us underlined the current moments of difficulty”, notably the ongoing economic and social crisis involving all of Europe, “marked by the spread of nationalism, xenophobia and various forms of fundamentalism”. Many participants discussed also the outcome of the European elections, “which are reason for widespread concern”. However “in most comments it was underlined the importance of values. Values like peace – of course, it is a foundation principle of our union – but also of social cohesion, solidarity and justice”, for whose promotion religious faiths play a fundamental role. Barroso mentioned the themes broached during the meeting, namely, the situation in Ukraine, relations between the EU and neighbouring countries, the poverty of families, the “migration knot”, environmental protection, the relationship between Europe and the other continents. Concrete response to citizens. Also Cardinal Reinhard Marx provided some keys of interpretation on the meeting. In his opinion “the EU can only regain the trust of the citizens, if it brings concrete solutions to current problems and challenges, such as unemployment, climate change, migration, or the negotiations on the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement”. To this regard, Cardinal Marx specifically commented: “Free trade always offers the opportunity for greater prosperity, and has therefore to be initially welcomed. But the market always also needs clear rules”. For this reason, “the two transatlantic partners who together represent the Western world marked by Christianity, can promote such an agreement to bring clear, ethically-grounded standards to the global economy”. In this way, the Agreement “means for Europe and the U.S not only an opportunity but a special responsibility”.Among the ethical issues that lie behind the free trade agreement, underlined the COMECE president, there is above all the question of who benefits from the agreement: “Does the proposed agreement answer the claim of serving the common good?” Does it “only serve rich nations to shield themselves in order to preserve greater benefits for themselves at the expense of developing and emerging countries? Or will we manage it such that this free trade agreement also benefits the most vulnerable in the world?” Appeal for Meriam. “We express deepest dismay and concern with the fate of Mrs Meriam Yahya Ibrahim, who has been sentenced to a hundred lashes and sentenced to death by hanging on charges of apostasy and adultery”. The presidents of EU institutions along with the religious leaders attending the meeting in Brussels finally released a statement in which they underline “Sudan’s international obligation to protect the freedom of religion and belief” and “unanimously call upon the responsible Sudanese authorities and appeal courts to revoke this inhumane verdict and release Mrs Meriam with the utmost urgency”. They demand that the Sudanese government, “in line with universal human rights”, repeal any legal provisions that penalise or discriminate against individuals for their religious beliefs or for changing their religion or beliefs.

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