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Respect for human rights vital, says Turkey-based Orthodox leader

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos I, seen by many Orthodox Christians as their spiritual leader, has told European politicians that dialogue between followers of different religions is essential, ”especially in times such as ours when our planet is facing many warfronts all over the world". Both in the past and in the present, "religious reasons were put forth to edge individuals, or even entire peoples, to warfare", said Bartholomeos in an address to the parliamentary assembly of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe, a grouping of 46 European nations.

"There are even some analysts of the future of humanity who consider a bloody clash of religions and of religious populations as inevitable," asserted the Orthodox leader, who is based in Istanbul, which was once the Byzantine Christian capital of Constantinople, but now belongs to Turkey.

In his 22 January speech, Bartholomeos also urged the need for "respect for the human person", which he said was fundamental for the promotion of human rights. "Each and every confinement of religious freedom and human rights mutilates human civilisation," he said.

Bartholomeos noted in his speech that "the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the surrounding Greek-Orthodox minority in Turkey feel that they still do not enjoy full rights" in the Muslim-majority nation. Still, he said, "remarkable steps" had been taken by Turkey in recent years. "We have always supported the European perspective of Turkey in anticipation of the remaining steps to be taken according to the standards of the European Union."

Turkey is one of the 46 members of the Council of Europe, the continent’s oldest political organisation, founded in 1949, which is known for its promotion of European-wide human rights and which includes the 27 nations in the European Union.

Speaking about interreligious dialogue, the Orthodox leader said it was "one of the most difficult dialogues" because many religions believed that they expressed the "divine truth through the revelation of God himself".

Moreover, "on many occasions people use their religious differences, or their religious convictions, as an element of their particularity and individuality". Bartholomeos added, "We must not overlook the fact that for many people and civilisations, religious faith and the religious element at large plays an important role in private, social and national life, a role much more important than the role it plays in the societies of the contemporary Western civilisation."

(c) Ecumenical News International