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A culture of peace and our responsibility

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On the initiative of the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations Vuk Jeremic, on September 6, 2013, the “Forum for a Culture of Peace” was held at the UN residence in New York, one of the participants of which was Patriarch Irinej of Serbia. This one-day forum was organized for UN member states, as well as non-governmental organizations and religious leaders with the aim of addressing issues of tolerance in the international community, cultural and religious dialogue. Along with the Serbian Patriarch, Chairman of the Islamic Community of North America Said Siid and Rabbi Eli Abadi addressed the meeting.

The biblical greeting says: Peace to you! It has become a traditional greeting for the three world monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Let me express my sincere respect for you and address the forum with this ancient and sacred greeting:

Peace to you! Shalom Aleichem! Εἰρήνη ὑμῖν! As-salam ‘aleikum!

In the divine service of the Orthodox Church, this greeting sounds in a slightly different form: Peace to all! And with him I appeal to everyone without exception, to those who are deprived of peace, who do not have peace in themselves and with themselves and cannot spread it to people and nations. Let me remind you that we, Orthodox Christians, ask God for peace at the beginning of each service. First of all, it means the inner spiritual world of a person, the world that transforms the most warlike person into a peacemaker, and then “the peace of the whole world,” peace between peoples and countries.

We believe in a God of peace and love, kindness and forgiveness. Therefore, in Orthodox Christianity and Christianity in general, peace does not only mean the absence of war, but primarily the presence of spiritual qualities – acceptance and respect for others, others, their freedom and dignity, their God-given and natural right to all the benefits that we wish for ourselves.

If we are inspired by this spirituality, peace will become possible for all of humanity. Without such spirituality, war is inevitable, even if there are only two people on earth, even brothers, like Cain and Abel once did. In this context, I would like to emphasize the fact that peace is an ideal, and peacefulness is a virtue in the value system of all world religions and spiritual traditions. So, in our tradition of greeting each other with a call for peace, we feel the need for this greeting. True, unfortunately, we often do this automatically, without delving into its true meaning, without thinking about the responsibility inherent in it.

Over the past decades, and especially recently, there has not been a speaker who could rejoice that from this worthy rostrum he addresses politicians in a common world. And today, when we talk about the culture of peace, the winds of war and fires are raging in different parts of the world.

And today, power is against law and justice, and selfish interests are covered by the mask of altruism.

Has not the time come, seeing our joint unsuccessful attempts to establish peace between peoples and countries, to seriously ask ourselves: what is the true meaning of the usual exchange of greetings to peace? Do we have the right to this noble greeting, precious to the believers of all world religions and to all people of good will? Is it not extremely hypocritical to present and spread the beauty of faith in God and lofty spiritual teachings, to extol the dignity of the human person and at the same time agree to the impossibility of maintaining peace and the inevitability of war? Are we capable, will we find the strength to seriously and responsibly test our conscience? Can we come to terms with the fact that we have lost the courage to stand for truth and justice, and the ability to call a spade a spade?

On behalf of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which I have the honor to represent here, and I am sure, on behalf of all Christianity, all sincerely believing people of the world, I call upon you to pray earnestly for peace in the world, to sincerely and persistently work together to create conditions for the victory of peace over wars. , and dialogue is over the dictatorship of power.

I believe that neither in this hall, nor anywhere on the planet is there a person, a human society, who does not agree with such a call. But simply declarative agreement by itself is not enough. We see convincing confirmation of this every day, for every day dramatic events take place in the world. In order for a culture of peace to truly take root in the world, which means, first of all, in the human heart and mind, it is necessary to diligently educate a person for peace, in peace.

The Church and religious associations, by the nature of their mission, must participate in this in an organized and consistent manner. In serving for the sake of peace, reconciliation and overcoming conflicts, they are obliged – precisely in the name of faith, spiritual and moral values ​​- to sincerely cooperate. There is no doubt that to a certain extent, in the social space available to them, they do this, but obviously, their efforts are not enough. Even if they had objective capabilities, the will and striving for more zealous service on the path to peace, this would not be enough, for the Church and religious associations, without the assistance of other participants in socio-historical processes, cannot achieve the necessary turning changes. In conditions of isolation, and especially in conditions of marginalization in certain societies, they are not able to lead humanity to a common peace, when the welcoming call for peace will not be an empty sound, echoing the hypocritical cynicism and soulless pragmatism, which, unfortunately, prevails in international relations. Moreover, some Churches and religious associations fell into the temptation to follow the logic of ideological one-sidedness, political force, and this, in fact, is incompatible with their message.

By coincidence of historical circumstances, one part of the world – a smaller, but still more influential in matters of choice of war and peace – is spared major armed conflicts. It seems to people who have the happiness of living in that part of the world that they are living in a period when there are no big wars in the world. This is a big misconception. A larger, more numerous part of the world is shaken by military clashes that only seem distant, either geographically or because they occur with others. There can be no peace in the world as long as it is a temporary privilege of a minority, and terrible everyday life or the threat of a quiet life in the foreseeable future is a reality for most of the population of our planet. If this is not realized in time, then a terrible moment may come when the world will not be anywhere else.

I came here from an ill-fated, and far from small part of the world, where instability, conflicts and wars have continued throughout history, and I testify that the people who suffered, died, survived in these wars can neither reconcile with them nor get used to them. After all, before falling into the abyss of sin and evil, man was created to live in freedom and peace with his loved ones. Therefore, let me share with you the experience of my Church and my people. This is a people who have not been spared many troubles, a people who today in Kosovo and Metohija, their spiritual and state cradle, are deprived of the right to a life worthy of a human being, and often to life in general. But this is a people who directs their gaze and hope to the future, ready with all their might to join the joint global project of creating conditions for a just and lasting peace between people, peoples and countries.

Our common goal should be to create a secure and lasting peace. Taking into account the experience of the past, the tests of the present, it looks like a distant and difficult to achieve goal. But this is the only path leading to the survival of humanity. The prerequisite for the beginning of the implementation of this distant goal is that all of us, despite our religious, ethnic, cultural and political affiliation and differences, consistently, without using double standards, defend respect for the principle of equality and justice in international relations. For the strength of the world is inseparable from its righteousness. Here I am talking about a righteousness that everyone and everyone will feel and to which no one will be forced by partial, selective and tendentious “truths” imposed through the use of force or the means of modern propaganda.

The culture of peace is incompatible with the cult of selfishness, with the practice of absolutism of selfish interests. The simple, albeit difficult to comprehend, reasonable, value and moral foundation on which all religious anthropology rests implies the realization that all people, before and above all differences, have been given a unique human nature and have been entrusted with the sacred duty of ennobling and perfecting it.

In the understanding of such a given, religion and science – and we hope politics – do not and should not have disagreements. For our time and the future, this is an obvious starting point in the general search for a way to overcome the deep contradictions that still deprive the greeting “Peace with you” of the existential dimension and vital truth.

Peace-building should not be limited to only one socio-political activity, but an activity that ontologically consists in serving faith, hope and love, in serving life and salvation.

And therefore – let us be peacemakers!

Thank you for your patient and generous attention!

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