France: "Europe could be a laboratory for peaceful coexistence"

France: "Europe could be a laboratory for peaceful coexistence"

From the Council of European Episcopal Conferences:

Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard (France):

Europe has a unique responsibility: she can be turned into a laboratory where Christians and Muslims demonstrate to the world that it is indeed possible to "live together, in harmony, with a style based on understanding and respect of the neighbour." So spoke card. Jean Pierre Ricard, Archbishop of Bordeaux and vice-president of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE) in an interview with the SIR, in the margins of the meeting of national delegates from the Bishops' Conferences responsible for relations with Muslims. Outlining the meaning of the meeting that is coming to an end today in Bordeaux, the cardinal spoke of a special responsibility Europe has for inter-religious dialogue between Christians and Muslims. "It is a challenge, but we must show that living together in harmony is possible and that giving the best of ourselves to the other is a gift that every religious tradition can make," he said. "Besides establishing peaceful relations, we also have to witness together to the fact that these peaceful relations can exist among people." The European Churches are confronted with the growing presence of Muslim people in European countries. "Their presence is changing the traditional historic, cultural and religious background of Europe, that a few decades ago was dominated by Christianity," said Richard.

Within the CCEE, "there are countries where Islam is predominant as in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Albania and in Turkey," the archbishop pointed out. "We felt the necessity of holding a meeting for the delegates from the Bishops' Conferences responsible for relations with Muslims in Europe to exchange experiences, initiatives, problems and responses about this presence. These issues affect our society as Muslims enter a democratic society characterised by a clear separation between temporal and spiritual power, between religions and State; they enter a European society characterised by pluralism, where other religions exist along with other conceptions of the world. It is about seeing how our European societies are integrating these new populations".

Andrea Pacini (Islamicist)

"While it is true that the inclusion of the Muslim population in Europe is a major challenge for European societies and for the Muslim component, it is clear that the young Muslim generations may play a key role in this process". The importance of the second- and third-generation immigrant populations of Muslim religion in the European integration process is highlighted by Andrea Pacini, professor of Islam in Europe at Rome's Pisai and advisor to the Papal Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue. Pacini – as he spoke this morning at the meeting of the bishops and national delegates for relations with Islam that is taking place in Bordeaux, on the initiative of Ccee – spoke of young Muslims in Europe: "they are the children of the first-generation Muslim immigrants and they share the fact they were born in Europe and have shared a large part of their schooling in European countries". In outlining the traits of this new membership of Islam, Pacini said that "while first-generation immigrants tend to live a sort of ethnic Islam in the attempt to reproduce at several levels the religious and social experience of their original countries, the young people of Muslim origin who were born and have studied in Europe tend to separate themselves from such ethnic Islam in the attempt to develop new ways of relating to Islam".

These young people often "cannot read or write the languages of their parents and regard the traditional practices as ancient". We are witnessing then a "progressive distancing from the ethnic Islam and the establishment of an individual approach to living the religious dimension", and this trend "is boosted in Europe by the lack of recognised Islamic authorities". A sort of "liberal Islam", which is widespread in Europe, where "most Muslims place their religious dimension in a private sphere". Another trend that is catching up in Europe – especially in France and Italy – is the "neo-Orthodox current" of Islam, which must not be confused with the fundamentalist drift. On the contrary, "this trend – explained the expert – stands out for the fact its members express a firm belief in Muslim religious membership, but place themselves in proactive dialogue with the European culture". Finally, the professor pointed out that "the urban protests that have broken out in some British and French suburbs over the last few years, although involving young people of Muslim origin, have never been marked by any assertion of Islamic identity. On the contrary, they complained of Europe's failing to fulfil its promises about their rights".

Source: SIR 1, 2, 3, 4 (English)

See also: Brussels: Cardinal warns against alienating immigrants

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