Thursday, April 17, 2008
I have just returned back from Geneva. The workshop sessions worked out well. In addition to the opening session, which began at 9 sharp, there were three panels; the first: Religion and the State in the Islamic World and the West, the second dealing with democracy , secularism and religion . The third panel dealt with the conditions and rights of religious minorities.
I had to moderate the second panel in which Lionel Jospin the former Prime Minister of France, Anne Grung a lecturer for Oslo University, Dr. Khoshroo the former Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran and Edibe Sozen from the AK party in Turkey also spoke.
The moderator before me, was very strict in regulating the time, thereby causing Mr. Khatami to sarcastically ask the moderators not to use a "militaristic" approach in their dealings with the panelists. So, when I took up the panel, I promised I would use more compassion in my approach!
Monsieur Jospin took more than the 10 minutes designated for him but I refrained from interrupting him while the other three speakers observed the time limit and at the end I thanked them for not abusing my compassion! Many interventions were also made. Many matters were debated, but I think one of the most important issues that were agreed upon was the understanding that secularism should not be considered as a precondition for democracy , but that even in religious contexts, democracy should be promoted and emphasized.
An Algerian born young woman who was a European citizen and leader of the Islam and Europe Program at the Center for European Studies talked about the concerns of Muslim Europeans and their identity crisis and the citizenship rights of Muslims in Europe. I brought up the point that democracy at the national and international level currently faces two deficits. On the one hand the ethical crisis is plaguing our political systems and on the other hand we lack compassion and love in our decision making processes which is taking us to the verge of confrontation and war.
The final statement of the workshop read among other phrases :religion and politics support each other in their common aim to improve the quality of human life, interfaith dialogue and education for mutual understanding can reduce fear and tensions, promotes religious minorities' rights and expand democracy. The statement also called upon religious and political leaders to be guided by moral and ethical values in the exercise of their leadership and to promote gender equity and overcome those traditional practices that inhibit its achievement .
The full text of the Statement will hopefully be available on the Internet soon. The session finished after 7pm and we convened two meetings for organizing two other events. I tried to practice my French talking with Mr. Jospin and some other delegates. They encouraged me, but I feel I have forgotten so much and I need to practice but when to find the time...