4th ANNUAL POLICY CONFERENCE

4th Annual Policy Conference

“Promoting the reform process in the Middle East – what role can the European Union play? ”

European Parliament, Brussels, 19-20 September 2006

Summary:
Here is the conference report from the 4th Annual Policy Conference in Brussels on September 19-20, 2006. As conferences in the past have been much appreciated by the participants a request has been made to make the content available also for a wider audience. This is an attempt to spread the message from this year´s conference. Please note that the content of this report does not necessarily reflect the views of the ECI but that of the respective speaker.

The report mostly consists of brief summaries except for one intervention where we have been given the speech in its complete written form. As there are several people involved in compiling this report also the style of reporting will vary. On one occasion we have been asked not to reveal the identity of a speaker due to the sensitive issues raised in his speech. Helsinki 1 November 2006 Tomas Sandell, Conference organiser

10.00 EU and the Middle East – A Partnership for Reform?

7767

 Patrick Child. Head of Cabinet for the European Commissioner for External Affairs and European Neighborhood policy

Mr Child started his speech by conveying his regards from the European Commissioner for External Affairs and European Neighborhood policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner who was unable to attend the conference due to her obligations at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York the same day.Mr Childs saw many promising signs in the Middle East. The current misery has increased the need for a comprehensive peace deal. There is a mood of optimism among European ministers that the European Union can play a leading role in the region. This is a moment of opportunity to raise the profile of the EU in the region and promote the democratic process, he said.

How can the EU increase its influence in the Middle East ? The EU has the following instruments.

The EU Neighborhood policy which covers all the countries to the east of the EU and around the Mediterranean Sea. This is a policy to promote our common values and market principles.Lebanon. Action plan to strengthen the rule of law, secure state building and institutional reforms. Urgent need to extend sovereignty across the whole territory.

Palestinian territory. Since the election of Hamas the EU funding is frozen. Priorities for the Palestinian territory are institution and state building but this is now on hold pending the developments within the PA. The new EU financing mechanism is an answer to humanitarian crisis. The EU hopes there will be a new unity government which would fulfill the three criteria for funding to continue, accept Israel’s right to existence, put down arms and respect the treaties of previous governments.Israel. The following priorities: The fundamental rights of all citizens. Inclusion of Israel in EU programs in areas of space industry, technology and environment protection but also trade, energy and transport.There needs to be incentives for reforms in the region. The EU can reward countries which make progress and commit to reforms, such as Morocco and Jordan. Soft policy is sometimes more effective than military means. The EU wants to become a world power in soft policies and reach its objectives through these non-military means.

The Barcelona process is another mechanism which promotes European values around the Mediterranean sea. There has been a improved cooperation between the US and the EU within the last 18 months. The Strategy is different but the goal is the same – peace and stability in the Middle East.The long term challenges for the EU are to promote the reform process without lecturing and to maintain a bottom up approach. We should not try to import solutions to the Middle East but encourage and empower them to make these reforms.

7773Comment by Zvi Tal, Israeli Deputy Ambassador to the European Union

The newly appointed deputy Ambassador Zvi Tal started his intervention by pointing out that this was his first official appearance in Brussels in his new position as deputy Ambassador to the European Union.

How is the partnership with the EU being perceived in Israel ? Expectations were high since the Barcelona process was the only fora where Israel could meet many of the Arab states. Today there is certain level of disappointment. Nevertheless, the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has openly stated that there is a political willingness to see EU play a major role in the Middle East. There are a number of areas where the EU has played a significant role already such as training of Palestinian police force, Gaza, the Iran issue and by ( the members states ) deploying a security force in Lebanon.There is an interest and curiosity about Europe in Israel. There is a clear influence on every level of society from Europe including the legal tradition. There is also a “love-hate” relationship with EU in general and France in particular. But now there is a new platform formed in France to improve these relations. The common Judeo-Christian values are our cornerstone.Today the EU and US are working together to reform the Middle East. But there is also a mistrust in Israel towards Europe. EU should act as an honest broker and address the concerns over anti-Semitism, racial hatred and the threat to the existence of the Israeli state.

As for Mr Child´s remarks on the need to apply fundamental rights for all citizens in Israel this is already the case, he said. But partners and good friends can disagree.

Mrs Hybaskova , who has attended every ECI event since her election in to the European Parliament in 2004 thanked the Coalition for organizing the event and for all the participants for coming to Brussels. She also thanked the European Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner for her courageous statements in the conflict. There has been a change of action over the last few years and the situation now is much better than under the British Commissioner Patton.

Hybaskova said that she has also stressed that democracy comes first. EU priority should be a democratization of the whole region. There is a conflict of values in today’s world. We can see this in the situation in Sudan and Somalia. Israel is our partner in this conflict. Israel is our ally based on our common Judeo-Christian values. We are fighting the same battle as UK soldiers in Iraq.

Regarding the EU neighborhood policy and the country based action plans it is important to point out that Israel was the first partner for the EU outside of Europe and that the partnership agreements came as a consequence of a fruitful cooperation with Israel.

As in the case of the Palestinian elections in January we can clearly see that elections are not enough. We also need to help the creation of a civil society. We need to help NGO´s and political parties to establish themselves. We also need to promote an open media where we help journalists who share our common values.

We need to promote Human rights as part of the democratic structure in all countries in the Middle East. Rule of law needs to become a priority. This is the first condition for a real democratization. This is not “the rule of the rulers” but “rule of law” and there is a significant difference.

The European Commission is involved in many activities in the region in order to strengthen civil society and democratic reforms.In Iraq we train judges but also support women groups etc. It is important that EU funding is directed to opposition groups who believe in real reforms and not to those who are opposing the reforms.

7769Rijk van Dam and Jana Hybaskova

As for Israel we need to remember that we are dealing with the only democracy in the Middle East. This is often neglected when members of this parliament criticize the Israel governments for various actions. Nevertheless we need to encourage more economic reforms.

Questions

Peter Robertson to Jana Hybaskova How can we hope for any improvements given that the people explicitly elected Hamas in power knowing their call for the destruction of Israel?

Jana Hybaskova. The people live in a very difficult situation. Most people only have a local perspective since they cannot travel easily. Those who voted for Hamas simply wanted a change for their children. They believed Hamas was better in delivering those changes than the corrupt Fatah. We should be cautious in guessing why people vote in a certain way. The problem today is the total lack of civil society where the mosque is the only public space.

Paddy Monaghan to Patrick Child:
Will there be any aid money to cover destruction also in northern Israel?

Patrick Child. There are no help but there has been no official request from Israel.

 

11.00 Reforming the Palestinian Society. Civil Society in the Middle East – how can the EU promote people-to-people contacts?

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Former investment banker, Consultant Bruce Pullman, United Kingdom
 Mr Pullman spoke about the need to be real about the differences between Islam, Christianity and Judaism and Zionism. There are fundamental differences between these religions and we need to be clear about this. There is a theological conflict not only a political one.

In the United Kingdom there are surveys showing that 60 percent of the Muslim population do not want to comply with the rules of the society but would rather live under sharia law. Twelve percent say that they admire suicide bombers etc. Pullman´s main concern was young boys who lack a father or a male role model.

We need to engage with the youth before it is too late. We should not even wait until they reach their twenties, like in most projects, but start in their early teens. It is only when these teens are confronted with peers from the other side that they learn to respect the other person and try to live in peace.

This process between young Palestinians and Israelis could happen in parallel to the Northern Ireland peace process. There is also a need to build bridges between Muslims and natives in many European inner cities. Only through a dialogue where we confront the issues and stereotypes and engage in each others lives we can build sustainable societies both in the Middle East and in Europe.

The cultural gap is just as real in Europe as it is in the Middle East. There is no other way in defusing these potential areas of crisis than engaging with the people concerned. This is a huge challenge also for the European Union and he was hoping that we could start a project in this area with the help of the European Union.

 

12.00 Religious freedom in the Holy land and in the Middle East

Pastor Naim Khoury

7808Pastor Naim Khoury is an Arab pastor from Bethlehem which is now under Palestinian authority. He grew up in a Greek-Orthodox family with deep roots in Jerusalem.

According to Khoury there is a growing anti-Semitism and sentiments of anti-Christianity in the Middle East and in the Palestinian territories in particular. The election of Hamas has made the situation for Christians even worse and many are now fleeing the Holy land. Over the last fifty years there has been a mass exodus of Christians leaving this region. What was once a partly Christian area is now almost completely under Islam.

But Khoury did not blame the Israelis for this exodus. He said that there is no freedom for Christians in the Middle East. But there is freedom in Israel for me as a Arab Christian. Why can we not speak about this openly?

Christians are being persecuted and killed for their faith. Why do others have the right to kill Christians and we are expected to say nothing? We need to wake up to what is happening. Khoury mentioned how he was brought up as a child in an Arab school when the colour of the Mediterranean sea was painted in red and not blue. The teacher explained that the sea would be red after the Jews had been killed and kicked out in the sea.

How are we to talk about reconciliation if we cannot talk about the facts? Pastor Khoury shared the story how his oldest brother was murdered earlier this year. His church in Bethlehem has been bombed three times. All this because they believed in God’s covenant with the Jewish people. How can they approve of Hamas and this thirst for blood?

Pastor Khoury called on the European parliament and other international institutions to raise these questions and ask if they are compatible with our universal values? If not why are we not reacting when people are killed for their faith and convictions?

7798Remark by MEP Tunne Kelam

Tunne Kelam spoke about the misconceptions of freedom of religion.Freedom of religion is not the same as freedom FROM religion. It also implies that there is a freedom to chose. The situation which Naim Khoury speaks of remind me of the situation in the former Soviet union during the Cold war where Christian faith was suppressed and many were sent to prison camps for their believes.

We should not rely only on the government to change policies but also work together with NGOs , human rights groups to change to situation in countries where there are restrictions on religious freedom. The European Parliament is a good example of this when they each year nominate a person which has been fighting for human rights for the Sakharov prize.

The historical role of the EU in the Middle East seems to have been that of a counter balance to the US. This should not lead to a situation where the EU does not speak out on behalf of Christians who are persecuted in the Palestinian territories or elsewhere in the Arab world. On the contrary both the European Union and the United States need to raise these issues of persecution of Christians with the relevant governments.

 

14.30 The humanitarian solution. A fresh approach to the Palestinian refugee crisis.

7985Dr Juergen Buehler, International Director International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, Board member of European Coalition for Israel

Mr. Juergen Buehler started his presentation by giving an outline. First he will give a brief assessment of the situation, then he will focus on a new outlook and perspective to it. Based on a quote from the Draft of the European Constitution Mr. Buehler pointed out that the EU claims that it bases its relations with other, non-EU countries, on the same values as the EU itself is based on. Yet the European aid provided to UNWRA’s refugee program simply undermines this statement. The EU supplies half of UNWRA’s funding. Yet the refugees are being robbed from their dignity, their freedom, everything.

One of the problems with many peace initiatives in dealing with the situation in the Middle-East is the focus on all-inclusive packages. Many initiatives try to incorporate and deal with all aspects of the matter at hand. Consequently if a party in the process is against one issue, the whole of the initiative goes down. Therefore Mr. Buehler’s advises the ECI to separate the refugee issue from other matters and to deal with it separately.

Mr. Buehler continued with a short historical exposition of facts covering the following matters:

  • The UN Resolution declaring the right of existence of the state of Israel in 1947 (29 September)
  • Establishment of the State of Israel, 14 May, 1948
  • This establishment of the State of Israel led to an almost civil war-like situation. Arab insurgencies having been stirring the people up causing many Palestinians to leave before the establishment of Israel. Al Husseini (most probably wrong spelling) played a great role in awakening fear amongst Palestinians for a possible life in the State of Israel.
  • Between May 1948 and November 1948 the first Arab/ Middle East war raged. It started right after the establishment of Israel on May 17th. Many Palestinians fled this country during this period too.
  • During the 1967 war (approximately) 300.000 more left.
  • A fourth reason that caused many Palestinians to leave was the encouragement by Arab leaders and surrounding nations. In certain cases they have not only encouraged the Palestinians to leave but pressured them to do so.

The common thread in all these instances was the direct link between a military conflict at hand and the flight of more Palestinians, causing them to become so-called refugees.

Official facts on the expulsion of Arabs/ Palestinians by Israeli’s has been and is contested amongst and by historians. Mr. Buehler argues that it is faulty to say that Israel is responsible for the refugee crisis. The origin of the refugee crisis needs to be put in the right context. I 1948 the world was facing several refugee flows simultaneously. The international aid directed to assist the Palestinian refugees was a reaction to these refugee flows. Thus the refugee crisis in the Middle East cannot be seen as an isolated matter. At the same time for example 800.000? Jews had to leave Arab countries. Approximately 500.000 of them settled in Israel, the rest in European countries or USA.

UNWRA handles a very broad definition when it comes to determining who is a refugee. Their definition, as far as one can speak about a definition, is very different from other refugee definition nowadays, most specifically the refugee definition handled by the UNHCR, stemming forth from the 1950 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol (last part added by me). From 1948 onward UNWRA has counted not only the person who lived in Palestine between June? 1946 and May 1948 as refugees, but also their descendants! This led to a refugee number that has risen from 940 to 4.3 million! Implicitly UNWRA one can say UNWRA uses a hereditary refugee definition.

The reason that the UNWRA chose such an unusual period of time, approximately two years, as the main criteria for determining who is a refugee, has a historical background. Before the Ottoman Empire few people lived in the area. As a matter of fact population was needed since the area was too empty, people were needed to live there. Many guest workers therefore moved to the area, especially in the timeframe used by UNWRA. The determination of the timeframe has to do with this factor. It enables them to fall under UNWRA protection. In the 19th and 20th century an immigration wave took place, leading more or less same numbers of Jews and Arabs to settle in the territory.

In order to be considered for refugee status, a person must live and stay in the appointed UNWRA refugee camps/ facilities. This leads to generations living in rather marginalized circumstances. This fact has often been abused and used as a weapon against Israel. The surrounding Arab States also refuse citizenship to any Palestinians living within their borders in order to use their existence, “the refugee crisis” as a political pawn against Israel.

The ECI extends the following recommendations to the EU:

  1. the ECI encourages EU to review the UNWRA (’s mandate) in light of the UN Refugee Convention and its Protocol, taking the new refugee definition into account.
  1. The ECI recommends the EU to set up its own refugee organization to deal with the plight of the Palestinian refugees. A span of five years to integrate them in society is recommended.3.
  2. The education program set up by UNWRA should be used to promote….?
  3. The Gaza area should be allocated to the introduction of new plans due to its suitability for this purpose rather than serving as ground for refugee compounds. (Not positive if this was a separate recommendation.)
  4. Neighboring countries should play a cooperative role in the whole of the process.

Mr. Buehler finishes his presentation by saying that a lot has to and can be done. Yet the ECI lacks even the basics needed to exist. Funding is necessary to strengthen the ECI’s voice. This would enable the ECI to do much more.

7834Comment by Leon Meijer, Political Advisor, European Parliament

Mr. Meijer starts off his presentation by sharing that he did not find the theme he thought there would be discussed. He thinks this theme should be Truth. Do we find truth? Are we listening to truth?

Until last year the Palestinian refugees had no dignity, no right to return, nothing. The Lebanese Christians of South Lebanon who became refugees in the past has left the country to Europe and the US. The world was blind to their plight. Yet how different is their situation to that of the Palestinian refugees? Without saying that the Palestinian refugees are in great state, there is one major difference. They have the world’s attention.

There are some other issues that mark a difference too:

  • The Palestinian refugees have their own refugee definition, a hereditary one, unheard of anywhere else; and
  • They have a special agency assigned to deal with their situation in the past.. and it never ceased to exist: the UNWRA.

It needs to be noted that the neighboring Arab states did not contribute in the absorption nor integration of the Palestinian refugees. This group was created and has been used as hostages, made into victims for political aims. With UN consent.. and under silence of the European countries.

Why hasn’t this matter been solved long ago? Was it the need of oil which kept many silent? The Palestinians are victims of their Arab brothers who never offered true hospitality and of the European countries who remained silent in the face of these tragedies. There is also a third, guilty party. These are the Palestinian leaders who recruit terrorists, keep the camps existing and use the refugees as a political weapon. An example was Mr. Arafat. Yet a fourth party is being blamed: Israel. One could ask: why would Israel allow the Palestinians living in neighboring countries to return if it is known that their only aim is the annihilation of Israel?

A question needs to be asked to Europe, to ourselves: How sincere are we in our efforts to solve the Palestinian crisis? We need to return to the issues where the errors were made to begin with, namely the unusual refugee definition, the hereditary nature of refugee status, the character of UNWRA and the lack of cooperation by Arab States. We also need to look at the European funds. Europe has finally taken a strong stance when it decided to stop the funds to the PA after the election. Palestinians can see that Europe is starting to take (its?) place. Things are moving. The same can be done with the funds to the UNWRA in order to change things. This can also be considered in relations with other countries. The agreements with these countries can be made dependant on their willingness to meet certain requirements. It seems that the Middle-East is just interested in Europe’s money. Then, let the money speak for Europe’s values.

Q&A:
Q: Do all the Palestinian refugees fall under the UNWRA definition?
A: It is absolutely right to question this matter. UNWRA officials themselves state that it is absolutely impossible to state the exact numbers. One could look at the numbers of those needing aid, which is difficult to asses. Head counting? Some people are counted twice while others are not counted since one cannot force people to be counted. Not all births.. but similarly neither all the deaths are reported.. Thus numbers are really questionable. UNWRA should question itself on this matter.

Q: There were many Jews who fled in the past. Why isn’t anyone taking them into consideration?
A: Because they don’t have as strong a lobby as the Muslims have. In many countries in the worlds we have seen exchanges of populations (Not sure if I understood this part correctly). This could’ve been the case in the Middle-East also yet it did not happen because of the refusal to integrate the Palestinians.

Q: What is a safe way to give money to the Palestinian refugees? Through which channels can this be done safely?
A: Pastor Khoury has a project running to aid these people. In any case the money should be given to people of integrity.

Q: What is needed to get Europe moving? How optimistic are you in this matter?
A Mr. Meijer: This depends on the people in function. Now, with Mrs. Ferrero-Waldner I am positive. What we need is truth, people who have the courage to come and speak out about what is really going on. More persons like Mr. Casaca and the Lebanese speakers are needed.

Mr. Buehler: Three years ago our response would have been: we are not very hopeful. But we have found that things can be influenced. There is hope, our voice (the ECI’s) helps in bringing about change in the EU’s policy. Furthermore we form a platform for citizens to come and speak out.

15.30 The war in Lebanon – a Lebanese perspective

Anonymous Lebanese Opposition leader.

In Lebanon there is no freedom of expression. During the war all media was in the immediate hands of Hizb’Allah.
Who is Hizb’Allah? A Party of God as their name says?
No, Hizb’Allah is not a party, even though it has members in the Parliament. Ideologically Hizb’Allah is a group, a terrorist group to be precise, the biggest media group maybe in the whole of the Middle- East and a group with huge financial strength.

In short Hizb’Allah is a big thing. The speaker argues that he would even say “Not Hizb’Allah is in Lebanon but Lebanon is in Hizb’Allah”. Hizb’Allah is bigger than Lebanon.

Yet the question remains, who are they? They cannot be located, no address, no phone.. yet they are everywhere. They are behind <our> (the Lebanese) text messages, our phones, in our boy scout groups, in all houses. To illustrate the speaker uses the example of material used to teach 5 year old boy scouts. Lesson number 17 teaches them the following “Only the resistance defeated the coward Jews, the enemy of humanity”. Lesson number 16 is entitled “Death to Israel”. They teach the children how to sow hatred..even how to show and express their hatred. These children are basically being taught military skills.. at the age of 5. Hizb’Allah is in the municipalities, the ministries, the police stations, the army and at the Presidency. Their people, who report to them, are everywhere.

Before July 12 2006 the World Council of the Cedars Revolution knew that Hizb’Allah had weapons and even private accounts, secret prisons, forged passports, communication networks of their own. It knew that they were excellent in money laundering, as a matter of fact the Committee who’s mandate it is to control this matter at the Central Bank is controlled by Hizb’Allah, it knew that they recruit, train and export suicide killers. After the war, discrimination by Christians was at the order of the day. Christian villages from which bombs were launched by Hizb’Allah are still uninhabited since their inhabitants are not supported by anyone, neither by the government making them unable to go back permanently. Hizb’Allah meanwhile is buying the territories in Beirut out. One day after the “end” of the war Hizb’Allah launched its own newspaper in Lebanon. How is this possible? If one wants to mobilize aid, one needs the support of Hizb’Allah to do so.

Hizb’Allah is Iran’s gambit. Iran needed Hizb’Allah to do what they did. They needed them time-wise, concerning their activities and taking into account their own positional weakness. Despite media lies we should know that Hizb’Allah has lost popularity, even amongst the Shiites. So, is Lebanon going to be Hizb’Allah’s gambit next?

(The Mount Arab example was given as an example of how the Christian presence dwindled throughout the years.)
Final part of the speaker´s presentation was concluded by a question and an answer.

Q: Has Europe really forgotten about Lebanon? How can we make Europe help Lebanon to help Europe? How do we make Europe understand that the jihadists have reached their doors?
A: Bring back Europe to Lebanon. Story of Europa as a Lebanese princess and the abduction by Zeus told. Europe as it stands needs to come back today to Lebanon. Lebanon needs Europe. The importance of the international rule of law in conducting relations was underlined at the end.

7821Remark by MEP Paolo Casaca.

Mr. Casaca starts his presentation by thanking and praising the previous speaker for coming to the conference/ the European Parliament and saying the truth. He acknowledges the immense pressure there is in Lebanon to say the “correct” all the time. Therefore he greatly appreciates the previous speaker´s effort.

In February 2006 Mr. Casaca visited Lebanon. It was a pleasure to visit the country despite being surrounded by 8 body guards permanently. He has visited many places, including areas close to the borders with Syria, overseeing the borders with Israel. Later, in May 2006, he made a similar trip in Israel. During his visits he sensed that something was about to happen. He comments on how he noticed huge amount of missiles previously carried to Lebanon.

What Mr. Casaca finds difficult to understand is how the BBC related the war in an even more one-sided manner/ anti-Israel manner than Al Jazeera! While listening to the BBC he could’ve understood if the things being presented would have been presented by Al Jazeera.. It was complete manipulation and distortion of reality. Many facts were obscured. Amongst which the creation of Hizb’Allah by Iran in 1982. The media presents Hizb’Allah as a reaction to Israeli aggression. The truth is different and easy to be verified.

An important question one can pose is: Was there really a war of Lebanon or is there an ongoing war of extremists? Mr. Casaca goes on to relate some findings of his through some good contacts with Iraqi’s. Ayatollah who is a representative of Iran in Iraq travels in Iraq promising the Iraqi’s houses etc. These type of actions are a complete reversal of what has happened before. Al Qaeda is now a visible militia, not hiding anymore. They are on the streets and are imposing the implementation of Shari’a. Mr. Casaca notes that to his mind Iraq is the most important battle ground we have nowadays.

If you talk to them in private, many Lebanese would tell you that Hizb’Allah is much worse than Israel, but they can’t say this any other moment/ A vast majority of the people, also in Iraq, are not pro extremists. This means that there is a way of winning the war, we need to understand what is going on. We shouldn’t make the same errors we made with Iran with the Lebanese. There IS a way, a road to change. Mr. Casaca notes that he is a very committed friend of Israel. Israel is the only true symbol of hope, of true democracy in the Middle-East. It is very difficult maybe, but we must distinguish and recognize on the other side those who could be on our side. Mr. Casaca thanks the audience for listening to him and finishes: “Anonymous speaker, you were absolutely brilliant”.

Q&A:
Q: How much of the info you just gave us do you think EU Foreign Affairs Ministers are aware of?
A by the Lebanese speaker: When I hear them wanting to open up negotiations with Hizb’Allah I ask myself the same question. We are at war, it’s not coming, it’s there. It’s a war of ideas, not a war of katushas, weapons. Europe has to commit fully and truthfully to this war of ideas before the price it will have to pay becomes too high.
We, the World Council, have limited means (?). We have the same discourse everywhere. We use the weapons of words everywhere, here, yesterday in Geneva, tomorrow in Beirut. Europe should strengthen organizations like ours to provide you the information you need.

Q: Last year it was said that Syria played the tune in Lebanon. Now you say it is Hizb’Allah who plays the tune. How do we reconcile these two points?
A: Before 2005, before the Cedar Revolution, the world was unaware of our state, the world wouldn’t believe us. Now Syria has left but they are still there through Hizb’Allah. It is not Hizb’Allah who is too strong. It is Lebanon who is too weak. Foreign troops in Lebanon, commitment of Europe shown by troops is scarce. Europe should strengthen its commitment to prevent Hiszb’Allah from finding its way to Europe.

Q: directed to Mr. Casaca: The phrase “war of ideas” has been used. Here in Europe something similar is taking place yet on a different level. How can we as a NGO/ Christians backing Israel up, be helpful to the European Parliament in their work against these ideas/ in the war of ideas?
A: These type of events help a lot. We have to come together, also with other organizations with which we have good contacts. Furthermore things need to be discussed in the context of the jihadist war against democracy, freedom and all our values. That’s the context in which things take place. Oftentimes the context is not being recognized.

Q: All intelligence services know what is going on and know what Hizb’Allah is (about). What are the prospects, how can we be optimistic that the UN troops will constitute any change? After all they have been there the past six years and knew there were transfer of weapons to Hizb’Alah taking place. How can we be optimistic about the role of the international community?
A: Resolution 1705 refers to a Chapter 6,5 mandate, not a Chapter 7 one. There exists some misunderstanding about what this entails. The UN committed to Lebanon on different levels, but they don’t know what to do. The Lebanese speaker gives an example of how Mr. Casaca’s visit to Lebanon opened his eyes to certain things. He says people see… but they don’t. Politicians maybe see, but they don’t know what to do. They think fighting Hizb’Allah is fighting it’s katushas (weapons) instead of its ideas.

Q: Since Israel is seeing too, why shouldn’t it use weapons to fight in the name of justice?
A: Weapons do not destroy ideas, they only strengthen them.

Wednesday 20 September, 2006
EU-Israel and the Middle East – “the R (religious) factor”

9.00 Introduction

MEP Hannu Takkula.

The official host of the conference, MEP Takkula excused himself for having to attend a meeting in Berlin the previous day and not be able to join the conference. In his speech he stressed the interdependence between Europe and Israel. Europe was built on the ashes of Holocaust with a pledge to never let it happen again. This was the European Community, later the European Union was founded, on Judeo-Christian values. It is therefore regrettable that the European leaders have had such a difficulty to recognize these same values in the European constitution and that they have left out the mentioning of God and Judeo-Christian heritage. A Union which is not true to its past will eventually have difficulties to navigate in to the future, he said.

Today the interconnect ness of Europe and Israel is clearer then ever. The same groups which are threatening the existence of Israel are also the enemies of Europe. This is why Europe and Israel need to work together like never before.

 

9.15 Religious convictions and freedom of expression in Europe today.

The case of the Mohammed caricatures.

7900

José Alegre-Soane, European Commission, DG Justice, Freedom and Security

Mr Alegre-Soane explained the complexity of European Commission policies which means that issues are dealt with from different perspectives by different directorate generals. He stressed that his particular area of competence is on issues relating to justice, freedom and security. He is not involved in dialogues with particular regions or countries.

The classic dilemma which the Commission is faced with is to protect people from racist speech without limiting the freedom of speech. This does often pose a tricky challenge where one right may suffer on behalf of the other. There is currently a framework proposition on racist speech which has not been accepted my the member states because it is felt that is limiting freedom of speech.

Freedom of religion is a matter for the member states and not for the European Commission. However, the Commission do have competence in areas where religious matters are affected such as integration policies. (cultural differences between diverse cultures and religions)

The Commission is involved in a dialogue with religions. This is not a inter-religious dialogue. There is a proposal to also start a inter-cultural dialogue which is not yet adopted. The main principles are to give momentum to the dialogue, visibility and mobilize civil society. There are external dimensions to this dialogue. There is EUROMED and in Vienna we have the European monitoring centre for racism and xenophobia which organized a seminar recently on the respect for religions, he said.

Hatred, as in anti-Semitism, does not have a place in Europe of today and is simply incompatible with the values of the EU. However there is no censorship but there is a possibility to adopt a legislation against racist speech. This is a difficult issue where the member states disagree.

There are a number of areas where the Commission is active

  • Anti-discrimination legislation
  • Television without frontiers. (Which stopped Al Manar the tv station of Hezbollah)
  • 2008. Year of intercultural dialogue
  • Cyber crime
  • Measures to combat racist speech compatible with rule of law

Concerning the Mohammed caricatures Mr Alegre-Soane pointed out that the Commission condemned the violent reactions of Muslims after several European newspapers had published caricatures of Mohammed. Freedom of speech is a fundamental freedom which can not be compromised he said. He also pointed out the reaction of the European Commission on that same day to the violent reactions of the speech of pope Benedict where he had quoted a medieval scholar and his view on Islam.

7895Tomas Sandell, José Alegre-Soane and Willem Glashouwer 

In November a year ago the United Nations agreed to mark January 27 as a International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Not long after one of its member states Iran openly denied the existence of such a Holocaust and called for the wiping of Israel from the map. There is a cynical double standard in the world community when it comes to Israel.

7908Comment by MEP Charles TANNOCK

Two years ago members of this parliament tried to suppress a report which showed a rise in anti-Semitism in Europe since it pointed out the source for such a rise. Also any attempts to have a serious inquiry in the funding of the PA has been torpedoed by members of the European parliament or as one former commissioner said; “I need an accounting of EU-money as I need a bullet in my head”. It is especially cynical how at the time so many MEP:s denied any wrong doing by Arafat but then turned around and blamed Arafat when Hamas rose to power.

There is an argument that we should fund in order not to lose control. One may ask the question today how much control or positive influence the EU has managed to have in the Palestinian territories over the years when we cannot even ask where the money goes? Mr Tannock was the first MEP to ask for the banning of Hamas and for Hezbollah. There are however a number of success stories in the European Union.

  • The European Union was able to get the Hezbollah station Al Manar off the satellite in accordance with the TV without frontiers directive.
  • The EU:s decision to freeze the aid to Hamas is a decision in the right direction

Tannock did not give much hope to the so called unity government between Hamas and Fatah. This may just be another way if legitimizing Hamas, he said. Mr Tannock has openly quoted the charter of Hamas in the European parliament which calls for the destruction of Israel.

In an exchange of questions he said that he beloved that we should try to find a deal with Syria and even consider using the Beka valley as a trading chip. If Israel gives up the Beka valley there would not be any raison d´etre for Hezbollah anymore.

7886Rijk van Dam, MEP Hannu Takkula, Tomas Sandell, MEP Charles Tannock, José Alegre-Soane and Willem Glashouwer

 

 

 

10.00 Islam and Europe – clash or cooperation?

7934Dr Ulf Ulfkotte, Germany.

Dr Ulf Ulfkotte is a former foreign correspondent with a leading German newspaper who decided to quit his job the day when his editors told him not to report about terrorism in Europe anymore indicating that it could lead to unnecessary fear. He had been working for 17 years as a correspondent in many Muslim countries where he had met with many of the leading Islamists and made interviews with them.

Facts. There are today around 5 million Muslims in France and some 3.5 million in Germany though it is impossible to estimate the real number due to the fact that many are illegal immigrants and are not registered anywhere.

Due to the much higher population growth among Muslims there will soon be a majority of Muslims in many European cities. Already today there are more students with a Muslim background in the schools in Brussels than there are native Belgians. There are many experts like Bernard Lewis who predict that by the end of this century Europe will be Islamic.

Pure demographics would indicate that large parts of Europe ( France, United Kingdom Benelux and Germany ) would have a Muslim majority in 50 years. There is a real possibility that parts of Europe could be under sharia law by this time. Already today 60 percent of British Muslims would prefer to live under sharia law.

But this is not only about immigration and demographics. In order to find a background to this phenomena one will have to go back to 1928 to the formation of the Muslim brotherhood. This brotherhood was established after the fall of the Ottoman empire and was hoping of the return of the caliphate. The Muslim brotherhood if the source of many of today’s militant Islamic groups. The books which these groups are selling in the mosques in Europe are no different from what Hitler was propagating in Germany in the 30´s, he said. Though the Muslim brotherhood seems to be the hub in these networks they ate highly invisible. Though there are some 700 groups in Germany today with links to the Muslim brotherhood no group uses this explicit name but goes under other names. Their main goal is the return of the caliphate. And in accordance with the teaching of Islam they are allowed to lie to achieve their goals.

Though there is no visible headquarter for the groups they are well coordinated nevertheless. They are highly sophisticated in the financial market in order to avoid laws restricting money laundering. There are regular riots against free speech in order to quiet any opposition.

He shared a story from one of his classes where he was teaching on Islam. One day a young Muslim told him that his imam had told him not to bomb any skyscrapers in Germany. This is useless, explained the Imam, in one or two generations they will be yours.!

Ulfkotte was calling for campaigns to raise awareness of these movements. There is money allocated to inform and educate about neo-Nazis. Why is there no EU-money for informing about these highly undemocratic groups, he asked.

On the contrary it seems like the governments want to suppress the truth. He mentioned several real stories which he had covered as a journalist where radical islamists had committed murders shouting “great is Allah”. But once the police met with the perpetrators they wanted to erase anything from the case which may indicate a ideologically motivated murder. Instead they had the man agree to their assessment that he was mad and had no ideological or religious motives for his actions. There are also other stories where the police has interfered in the investigations in order to hide the real truth to come forth- Why is this? He believed it has partly to do with the authorities wanting to hinder fear but also a political correctness which does not want to point our militant Islam for what it is. If you report or talk openly about these issues you are simply called a Islam phobic, he said.. But we can not remain quiet. If we do, we no longer will have a European Commission in Brussels but European submission to Islam.

7941Georgina Dufoix
Former Minister of Health, France

Georgina Dufoix started out by thanking Dr Ulfkotte for speaking out so courageously. She said she totally agreed with his assessment and that she has exactly the same position. It is time to wake up.

Though this is something extremely dangerous and worrying we need to confront it with open hearts. As Christians we are called to love people. But loving a person does not mean that you agree with him or accept what he has to say. Do you want a caliphate in Europe, she asked the participants. This may not affect us directly but it will affect our children and grandchildren. Do you want them to grow up under sharia law?

So what can we do? We need to approach this with a heart which loves people. Though we as European are proud of ourselves and our universal values we are weak to start a dialogue. We are not rooted in our values anymore. The Islamists know what they believe in and they are firm in their believes. But these are people with other roots – not a Judeo-Christian root.

Let us take some examples: Where did the right of Man come from? It did not appear only in 1948 at the UN declaration or at the French revolution in 1789 but it was found in the Judeo-Christian Bible. The right of man is not the law of man. Laws can be changed but if they are rooted in something outside of man they can survive.

Others have absolute values but in the west we now have relative values. Where can we again find our absolute values if not in the Bible where the Creator is talking to his creation?

If we ignore our roots and do nothing we will have a caliphate in 40 years, she predicted. But if we come back to our roots we will become stronger and stronger.

Our freedom is rooted in our culture regardless of if we like it or not. This same freedom is rooted in the Bible. The same with equality. Our challenge is to get rooted on a deeper level and incarnate our values. There is a major degree of uncertainty and confusion today in the west but we can be completely confident in our own values because they are the values of the eternal one.

 

11.00 What happened with the Judeo-Christian Europe?

7970Dr. Martin Kugler, Europe for Christ!, Austria
(Full speech)

Ladies and Gentlemen, what happened with the Judeo-Christian Europe? In order to answer this question, we first need to answer “What is the Judeo-Christian Europe?” There isn’t a one-word-answer. A thought of the Jewish legal scholar Joseph Wailer might help us out: When you walk down the streets of a European city – try to take away everything that is Christian or that has been brought about by Christianity and look how little remains.

There, on these streets, you find the Judeo-Christian Europe, in its universities, its hospitals, its monasteries and libraries, its architecture. You find it in monuments, street names and in the Church building which accompanies almost every conglomeration of more than three houses.

Then, look at the people: You will find a deeply rooted understanding of solidarity with those that are in need. Immense amounts of donations and countless volunteers went to emergency situations from Bosnia to the Tsunami hit regions. A vast majority will live according to the ten commandments and even strive towards a virtuous life – even if they may not be practising their faith. Interestingly, this more or less virtuous society doesn’t necessarily have to live an active Christian life. One could call this ‘decent’ behaviour an ‘aftermath’ of an active Christian life of previous generations. However, this phenomenon might not last forever.

You will also find authentic tolerance and living together of different cultures – and religions. One of the most revolutionary sentences in the New Testament “Give God what belongs to God and Caesar what belongs to Caesar” prepared the way for separation of spiritual and political power. This separation, which was put into practice throughout history often in rather imperfect ways, created the necessary conditions for tolerance and freedom of religion.

On your walk through the streets of Europe you will also find real ‘democrats’, namely people who have learned self-restraint to accept to be ruled by those who one voted against, and to limit oneself when one happens to be in power. Joseph Weiler said in a lecture he gave in April in Vienna: “The Judea-Christian tradition teaches self-restraint in our own exercise of our liberties. We are free to do many things, but we don’t simply follow all our desires without restraint. We control our liberty in order to be truly free, which spills over into politics. Our political culture is a culture of self-restraint in the exercise of power, which – as even an atheist or agnostic would acknowledge – we owe to the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

Then, look at the law. The Christian principle of solidarity is woven like a red thread through European national codes of law. Fair wages and working conditions, basic health care and a tightly knit social net preventing the weak or old from falling through its meshes. I do not need to explain but only mention another Christian principle, namely subsidiarity. Also the understanding of human rights goes back to the Christian vision of man. Bartolome de las Casas and Francisco de Vitoria, after all, were Catholic monks.

Christianity has also ‘humanised’ the law: When in ancient Rome the “Pater familias” decided over life and death of his child, there is now a clear conviction that no human being has the right to take another one’s life. The belief in a God who created man in his image led to the understanding, that a human being must not be used as a mere means. This is what we call now the principle of non-instrumentalisation. Eventually, this understanding led to the abolition of slavery in the late Roman Empire. Authentic Christianity also limits the influence of the state on the individual and therefore humanises society: The great martyrs of the totalitarian regimes were often faithful people who listened to an authority beyond Ceasar.

Now, the question “what happened with the Judeo-Christian Europe? implies that many people feel, that somehow something has been lost. What do these people perceive? Let me give you a couple of brief points: Consider with me what we could call the banalization of politics in a materialistic and consumer society, a process which contradicts the Judeo-Christian-humanistic identity of our continent and leaves a vacuum, which can easily be filled by fanatics of any kind. This unsatisfactory and even dangerous void has several roots. One significant reason which also plays a role for the dialogue with others religions is the exclusion of faith and binding ethos from the public debate. European history is characterized by the tradition not to separate faith from reason and to give an account for what one holds sacred, such as God, the homeland, family. This tradition seems to be lost. Nowadays, man’s essential questions – where do I come from and where do I go to – may not be asked in the – by science and politics – narrowly interpreted area of reason. Man’s questions are exiled to the realm of the subjective.

If subjectivism rules public life, it is opinion polls which decide on policies. Politics becomes arbitrary. Society will then be defenceless against any form of ideological threat. Ethical rules deduced from the rules of evolution, psychology or sociology do not suffice as a safeguard.

Let me continue this investigation with two famous phrases, both were introduced by a pope, both seek to describe aspects of European society of today. John Paul II spoke of a Culture of Death – and advocated a Culture of Life. Pope Benedikt XVI, his approach is much more analytic, describes what he sees in Europe today as a Dictatorship of Relativism.

What is the culture of life? A Ukrainian professor of philosophy was once asked this question over a cup of coffee and cookies. He reached a cookie over the table and said: “Look at your hand – you receivedthis cookie, you did not take it. Your hand was stretched out and open. That’s the culture of life. Culture of death means taking. The twist of the wrist changes the universe.” It is an attitude of receiving or claiming, of accepting or manufacturing – be it towards the human embryo or all the way until the old and dying. Quite obviously, there are many violations of this attitude towards life in current European society. Beginning from abortion all the way to Euthanasia, notwithstanding the currently so vividly discussed issue of embryonic stem cell research, which involves the destruction of human embryos. I do not need to point out to you that the European Union is funding such kind of research (6th and 7th research framework programme). Dictatorship of Relativism: You have all heard the depicting saying: “Everything is relative. And this statement is absolute.” It is difficult today to say that there is a truth. Truth has almost become a bad word! We are afraid even of thinking that there could be an absolute truth. The reason, I think is, that we misunderstand the word: We think that it necessarily demeans those that don’t recognize this truth. But that’s wrong. Let me just remind of one of the greatest European thinkers, St. Augustin: Hate sin – but love the sinner. Hate error – but love the erroneous. True tolerance therefore does NOT require to say that every thought, idea or behaviour is equally valid. It requires only to say, every human being is equally precious and deserves my respect – despite his or her erroneous convictions. Only true tolerance allows real debate and subsequent advance of society.

In a similar way, religion is often wrongly called intolerant. Look for example at the French government when it decided that the wearing of the foulard was no longer an expression of religiosity, but political incitement. They did not say they didn’t allow the foulard in schools in the interest of all, but they generally forbid religious symbols. So instead of the message being “We do not tolerate intolerant religion (if this is the case at all)”, the message they sent is “Religion is intolerant, and therefore we cannot have religious symbols in schools.” Such subtle messages make it more difficult for people to turn towards their faith.

On a very practical level, we witness today a rather ideological approach from certain pressure groups. There is an uproar when one opposes abortion. Or when one advocates a woman’s choice to be a parent at home, like the famous German TV journalist Eva Herman does now in her recently published book. Or when one says something critical toward homosexuality, then one is homophobic and might get sued. This is not freedom, this is not an intellectual debate, this is not a free public square. In this regard, Europe has to learn a lot.

Let us look at a few other examples:
Freedom of religion is a great achievement and – even though it has been violated throughout the centuries – a Christian principle. To force anybody to believe into the Gospel is against the doctrine of the Gospel. Europeans tend to interpret this principle as freedom FROM religion – you may not be forced to adhere to any particular faith. Interestingly, Americans interpret it rather as a freedom to PRACTICE religion. It means both. To me, the principle is being violated, when the wearing of the foulard is prohibited to Muslim women, and when the symbol of the cross is taken out of classrooms – or even off people’s necks.

A couple of weeks ago, the official Austrian association of university students called upon Austrian NGOs to present their work in a booklet for the students, so that the students could choose where to volunteer. They explicitly prohibited faith-based organisations to contribute. Or, remember the debate on the reference to God or to Europe’s Judeo-Christian roots in the Constitution. Not only did millions of Europeans sign in favour. But history itself demands such a reference! Radical laicists do not hesitate to negate history. Ideologies are characterized by negations or deliberate mis-interpretations of history. Instead of charitable living together, modern ideologies have brought about the new phenomenon of Christianophobia, which means fear of Christians. There are over 20 UN documents that list it as a problem. The OSCE has instituted a Personal Representative of the Chair in Office focussing also on intolerance and discrimination against Christians. As a response to a number of occurrences of Christianophia, we are currently working on the launch of a European Observatory on Christianophobia and Intolerance in Vienna.

But, most importantly, one must ask, what has happened to us Christians? It is the crisis of personal faith that triggers these odd phenomenons of current society. I think we should all ask ourselves, where is Christ in our hearts, in my heart? What we need long before any political mechanism is a personal re-orientation. Christians in Europe seem to have lost their self-confidence. They moved sotosay freely into a ghetto. It would be typical of a Christian to say – only when asked of course – “I am sorry, yes I am Christian. But I won’t do it again. – And I will definitely keep it private.” With this attitude, the Judeo-Christian Europe will only be noticed with a strong magnifying glass. More self-confidence of its Christians would however do Europe good. My organisation, Europe for Christ, aims at exactly that and uses as a visible sign the “Europefish”. You can all take some, if you would like to.

How can Europe make a difference in the Reform Process in the Middle East?
More competent people than me have discussed the political aspects of this question here at this conference. Let me just add a spiritual yet practical thought.

If we want to export European virtues to the middle East, we need to engage in a dialogue, and this dialogue is a religious one, as the conflict has often religious roots. More than any other dialogue a religious one must be honest. Therefore, within this dialogue, we have to be authentic and live what we say.

How can we engage the middle East in a dialogue? Definitely not, when our culture is deaf towards the Divine and when we force religion into privacy. If we call it reasonable to exclude the Divine from our thinking, we are not able to engage in a dialogue of cultures. We can build bridges of steel however, if we believe in the Creator as we share this belief with the religions of the middle East. We will be taken seriously, if we live “gottesfürchtig” – godly, god-fearing. Even though the Koran doesn’t treat non-Muslims kindly, authentic Christians are nonetheless often regarded as relatives of some sort. Muslims might then become less aggressive, as provocations in the area of morale and public symptoms of decadence often serve as excuse to attack Christians and Jews.

Secondly, once we take part in a dialogue, we need identity and authenticity. We do not need to inventEurope – but to rediscover its identity. And for that reason Christians are indispensable – as long as they are self-confident and coherent. Otherwise they cannot take part in a dialogue or peace process. The European Union gives a lot of money. It has also to make a difference by giving ideas. Ideas can go far; and we need to prove them by being good examples:

What are the ideas, the spiritual goods Europe could export
Democracy comes to mind first. However, to export democracy is not that easy, as it only works when one accepts the rule of those he has voted against, as I have explained earlier. We must therefore in the same package export traditional virtues, spear-headed by the virtue of self-restraint. We must also give an example of a culture of debate, of authentic and honest common truth-finding. Many aspects of Europe’s current mainstream do not serve as good examples as they do neither allow criticism nor dissent.

We could export freedom of religion and authentic tolerance: that seems possible only if we ourselveslive our identity and don’t neglect it. This is the condition to be taken serious by other religions, especially by Muslims, who do not see their identity threatened by the Christian faith itself but rather by the despise of God and a cynism which considers the ridiculing of the Sacred as an element of freedom. Pope Benedikt XVI puts it this way: “This cynicism is not the kind of tolerance and cultural openness that the world’s people are looking for and that all of us wish for. The tolerance which we need urgently, includes the fear of God and respect for what others hold sacred. This respect for what others hold sacred demands that we ourselves learn once more the fear of God.” Here, the European Union has a long way to go!

Originals of quotes:
“Eine Vernunft, die dem Göttlichen gegenüber taub ist und Religion in den Bereich der Subkulturen abdrängt, ist unfähig zum Dialog der Kulturen”

Dieser Zynismus ist nicht die Art von Toleranz und kultureller Offenheit, auf die die Völker warten und die wir alle wünschen. Die Toleranz, die wir dringend brauchen, schließt die Ehrfurcht vor Gott ein – die Ehrfurcht vor dem, was dem anderen heilig ist. Diese Ehrfurcht vor dem Heiligen der anderen setzt aber wiederum voraus, dass wir selbst die Ehrfurcht vor Gott wieder lernen.

So aber verlieren Ethos und Religion ihre gemeinschaftsbildende Kraft und verfallen der Beliebigkeit. Dieser Zustand ist für die Menschheit gefährlich: Wir sehen es an den uns bedrohenden Pathologien der Religion und der Vernunft, die notwendig ausbrechen müssen, wo die Vernunft so verengt wird, daß ihr die Fragen der Religion und des Ethos nicht mehr zugehören. Was an ethischen Versuchen von den Regeln der Evolution oder von Psychologie und Soziologie her bleibt, reicht ganz einfach nicht aus.

7944Comment by MEP Hans-Gert Pöttering

Mr Pöttering was introduced by moderator as the designated new president of the European parliament starting next year.

Mr Pöttering shared about the developments in the Middle East. It is important that Israelis and Palestinians can live in a safe neighborhood. Peace is not impossible. If it could happen between France and Germany it can happen in the Middle East. There are a number of areas where the European parliament is concerned.

  • Lebanon needs to become an independent country and not be governed by anyone else.
  • Iran needs to be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons

Mr Pöttering was, as a German, personally very much in favor of a German contingent in the UN peace keeping force in southern Lebanon. “It warms my heart when the prime minister of Israel says that Germany is welcome.

He was also in favor of a dialogue of cultures and religions. Otherwise the notion of a clash between civilizations will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We need to identify those within Islam who wants to live in peace, those who wants a partnership. We are forces to live together peacefully.

Regarding the Judeo-Christian heritage CDU unanimously agreed to have God mentioned in the constitution. It was Pöttering´s personal suggestion that the phrase should be Judeo-Christian heritage to show that the roots are indeed Jewish. It was therefore no surprise that it was CDU which prevented Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstad to become the new president of the European Commission as Chirac had wanted. “How could we as CDU support a candidate who openly wanted to prevent God from being mentioned in the European constitution?”

Also chancellor Merkel has proposed that God should be included in the new constitution. This is not a pre-condition for accepting the constitution but an important issue nevertheless. There are several interesting articles in the new constitution which also affects churches. Churches and religious dialogue are mentioned in a separate articles. The fundamental values which are mentioned are of course Judeo-Christian values which we share with Israel.

One of the most important values is the dignity of the human being. If you accept this you will also find solutions. In order to have a religious dialogue you need to have a position. You cannot be tolerant towards others if you do not yourself know what you stand for. But when you are strengthened in your own believes you can also accept others.

He went on to mention a discussion he had with an counselor to the king of Saudi-Arabia. The counselor asked “how do you treat Muslims in Germany?” He answered that they have the same right as any other citizens but that there is sometimes problems in getting them integrated. Then Pöttering asked: “How do you treat Christians?” Is it true that you will kill them if they convert to Christianity?”. There was no answer. Only silence.

Religious dialogue is a two way process which needs reciprocity.

7979

Rijk van Dam, Helmut Specht, Roy Thurley Peter Robertson Tomas Sandell Juergen Buehler and Willem Glashouwer.