Religious leaders of Albania sign historic “Statement of Shared Moral Commitment”
In a beautiful statement, religious leaders in Albania — one of the poorest nations in Europe, and one of the last released from Communism — proclaim the importance of religious harmony and shared values while carefully enunciated their own distinctness. The preservation of the belief in uniqueness of one's own religion is one of the most difficult public relations issues faced by the interfaith movement. Here we have an amazing model of how to achieve this while emphasizing the need for cooperation. "Let us treat others as we would wish them to treat us."
The religious leaders from the Albanian Islamic Community, Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church and Bektashi Community signed an historic “Statement of Shared Moral Commitment” on March 18, 2005. These religious leaders of Albania, whose communities endured great suffering during the Cold War, jointly acknowledged their diverse faith traditions, affirmed their shared moral values, and committed themselves to work together to promote a vibrant civil society in Albania. They also called upon the relevant national authorities to protect religious freedom.
During the signing ceremony moderated by the World Conference of Religions for Peace and attended by leading national figures and representatives of many foreign embassies, the Statement was presented by the religious leaders to the Albanian peoples. The religious leaders pledged to work together on the development of civil society and the growth of religious freedom. During the ceremony, The Prime Minister of Albania, H. E. Fatos Nano, declared his support for the multi-religious initiative, stating that “these religious leaders are far more important (to Albania) than any political officer.”
The event marked an important step in a year long process facilitated by Religions for Peace designed to support the leadership of the heads of the Albanian religious communities. Speaking on behalf of the Albanian religious leaders, the Orthodox Archbishop Anastasios expressed appreciation for the partnership with Religions for Peace, noting the complementary strengths of multi-religious cooperation on national, regional and international levels. Religions for Peace, the world’s largest multi-religious organization, has worked to facilitate the formation of action-oriented multi-religious councils throughout Southeast Europe. In November 2004, the European Council of Religions for Peace convened a major meeting in Brussels of Southeast European religious leaders around the topic of religious harmony in the region.
STATEMENT OF SHARED MORAL COMMITMENT
18 March, 2005
- In view of the long, peaceful and fruitful co-existence of traditional religious communities in Albania;
- Bearing in mind that after a common suffering of almost 50-years of total prohibition of faith and religious institutions, the values and ideas of our faith traditions could survive thanks to enormous sacrifice;
- Recognising that, with gratitude to God, the period of repression is behind us and religious life can once again blossom in Albania in its various forms and retake its hereditary place in a democratic society;
- But at the same time, recognizing the reality of religious disharmony in ethnic, social and political conflicts in many parts of the world and even within our region;
We, the traditional religious communities in Albania: the Muslim Community, the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania (Orthodox Church), the Catholic Church, and the Bektashi Community, feel called upon to point the way to the future and have made the decision to release the following joint statement.
We recognize and accept that our religious communities differ from each other, and that each of us feels called to observe their own faith. At the same time, we recognize that our religious and spiritual traditions hold many values in common, and that these shared values can serve as an authentic basis for mutual esteem, cooperation, and free common living throughout the territory of Albania.
We, the Muslim Community, the Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, and the Bektashi Community are proud of our history of multi-religious co-existence in Albania. We proclaim that the dignity of the human person and human value is a gift of God. Our faiths, each in their own way, call us to respect each person’s fundamental human rights. Discrimination and violence against persons or the violation of their basic rights, for us, breaks not only man-made laws, but also God’s law.
As representatives of the respective religious communities we express our conviction that, after rebuilding our religious communities, we have now entered into a new phase of challenges. These challenges require us to strengthen and renew our efforts to promote the traditionally good relations as well as dialogue and cooperation among ourselves, while also enhancing the role of our religious communities as important institutions in our society. With this statement we pledge the following:
- We will continue to commit ourselves to pray for and to promote tolerance, coexistence, and peace both within our own communities and for the entire Albanian society. We also pledge ourselves to continue the promotion of a “climate of peace” within our communities by stressing to our own officials that preaching must not cause religious hatred;We will continue to educate all persons to understand and respect our different faith traditions in order to prevent ignorance and fear from fuelling discrimination and violence. To this end, we must ensure that school curriculum and textbooks treat each religious tradition in an equal and open manner;We will continue to be open to cooperation with other civic and social organizations to carry out common activities for which we share a common concern;
- We will continue to cooperate through reciprocal meetings to maintain and promote inter-religious understanding in Albania and in the region;
- We will continue to pledge ourselves to find the means to provide assistance for all those who suffer in our society;
Further, we, the Muslim Community, the Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, and the Bektashi Community call on civil authorities at the local and state level:
- To protect the freedom of all authorized representatives or religious leaders to fulfil their mission;
- To protect the traditional religious communities from any person or group (within or outside the community) who tries to misuse the name and/or property, seals, and symbols of a religious community. In such cases we believe it is necessary that the state, under the rule of law, firmly intervenes in favour of the welfare of these communities;
- To provide support for the development of a strong civil society through adopting appropriate laws, financial regulations, and other policies that will promote the necessary environment for religious communities and other civic organizations to thrive;
- To furthermore promote and practice democracy, human rights and rule of law;
- To work towards a resolution on the legal status of religious communities and on the restitution of property of religious communities that was nationalized or expropriated in the past;
- To develop media practices that do not promote division, mistrust and hostility among peoples, but can contribute to the building of a healthy democratic society. In this context we also call on the media to be fair and respectful in their coverage of religious topics;
Finally, we call on the entire Albanian society to return once again to the values of faith, protection of life, and human dignity. Let us treat others as we would wish them to treat us.
H. Selim Muca Muslim Community of Albania
Archbishop of Tirana Durres, Elbasan & All Albania Prof. Dr. Anastasios Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania
H.E. Mons. Rrok Mirdita Catholic Church
H.D. Reshat Bardhi Bektashi Community of Albania
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