Message by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the 11th Euroasian Economic Summit (Istanbul, 3 May 2008).
Sayın Din İşleri Başkanı,
It is with great pleasure that we have accepted to attend this meeting in order to address and greet the esteemed delegates of the 11th Euroasian Economic Summit hosted annually by the Marmara Group Foundation in association with the Social Research Foundation, which have once again admirably gathered an array at the highest level of world leaders in the financial and political sphere, together with representatives from academia and business as well as all influential walks of life.
The topics of your deliberations are undoubtedly at the forefront of global concern, namely the rightful use of the planet’s energy resources, the fair distribution of material goods to overcome poverty worldwide, and the development of authentic dialogue in the pursuit of peace throughout the world. Moreover, the intercultural and intercontinental dimension of the same issues is reflected in the very venue of this summit, which marks the unique historical privilege of our generation to make decisions that will not only resolve current problems but also confront them in an honest and definitive way for the benefit of generations to come.
For, this nation – and, indeed, this city – stands at the frontier between Europe and Asia, reminding us that any appropriate response to and resolution of such critical issues can only be anticipated when people of all disciplines and backgrounds, above and beyond racial or religious boundaries, meet in the earnest hope of working together for a better world. It is the courage to hope for a world where there is enough for all people and where the world’s resources are used respectfully and selflessly.
We refer to the transcending even of religious boundaries precisely because the foremost purpose of the faith communities is surely the reflection and expression of the goodness of God in the reality and experience of our world. Those who believe in a living God are, therefore, called to interpret their convictions in a way that both suggests and manifests the divine wish for all people to enjoy the fruits of the earth in an equitable manner, without hurting one another and without abusing the resources of our planet. It is at once inconceivable and incorrect that religious adherents cannot appreciate how the way we pray in churches, mosques and temples is a direct reflection of the way we live as citizens in our respective professions. And, by analogy, the way we treat other people and the natural environment on this earth is the clearest sign of just how authentically we pray to God in heaven.
During the middle of the sixth century, a renowned monk and mystic living in Palestine, Barsanuphius the Great, remarked: “Not wounding my neighbor; that is the way of God!” We can think of no better definition of religious belief and moral practice for those of us who strive to inspire our faithful in accordance to godly precepts. At the same time, however, the timely words of St. Barsanuphius, who was also known as “the great old man,” are formative for those who hold positions of leadership and responsibility, and who strive to motivate international and interdisciplinary action in response to pressing global problems.
In this way, it becomes evident that not only does religion play a pivotal role in people’s personal lives throughout the world, but religion also plays a critical role as a force of social and institutional mobilization on a variety of levels. While the theological language of religion and spirituality may differ from the technical vocabulary of economics and politics, nevertheless the barriers that at first glance appear to separate religious concerns (such as salvation and spirituality) from pragmatic interests (such as commerce and trade) are not impenetrable. Indeed, such barriers appear to crumble before the manifold challenges of social justice and globalization. Whether we are dealing with environment or peace, poverty or hunger, education or healthcare, there is today a heightened sense of common concern and common responsibility, which is felt with particular acuteness by people of faith as well as by those whose outlook is expressly secular.
Our engagement with such issues does not of course in any way undermine or abolish the differences between the various disciplines as well as the disagreements which arise between those who look at the world in different ways. Yet the growing signs of a common commitment to work together for the well-being of humanity and the life of the world are encouraging. It is an encounter of individuals and institutions that bodes well for our world. And it is involvement that highlights the supreme purpose and calling of humanity to transcend political or religious differences in order to transform the entire world for the glory of God.
Therefore, we congratulate you on assuming responsibility to care for the most vulnerable in our world. We pray that your deliberations will be fruitful in your own leadership roles. May the grace of God inspire all of you in your vision and action.