They take position in important social discourses and present their own argumentation. At the same time, they provide a platform for encounters and controversial discussions. That the latter can be important and exciting, we recently learned at an event in Zurich.
Religious communities should realize their peace potential and actively engage in peace as important actors. For this attitude, the podium guests recently voted in a debate on religious peace-keeping in Zurich. Plusbildung, the Swiss association of church educational organizations, had invited for the event.
“Religion can make conflict more difficult – religion is a successful peacemaker.” This ambiguity was presented by Silke Lechner, the deputy head of the working group on Peace Responsibility of Religions at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, in her keynote address with pointed theses. Wars usually have several causes, and little is said about the peace potential of churches, she said. Her team is therefore focusing on the peace policy potential of religious communities worldwide and strives to build a network of suitable religious representatives who actively promote peace. Because these are strongly networked, trustworthy key persons. And especially the participation of internationally networked religious actors is increasingly in demand from the political side, according to the former study director of the German Protestant Kirchentag.
For the first time in Switzerland representatives from politics and religious communities met and discussed on this topic. Among them were Jean-Nicolas Bitter, Senior Advisor to the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, and Rev. Thomas Wipf, President of the European Interreligious Council of Religious Leaders ECRL. On the one hand, the churches and religious communities have been encouraged to see themselves as “key players” in society, keeping an eye on the international perspective and networking. On the other hand, they were self-critical, since they still have to do their homework, that is, to break away from the ideological-embossing influence of religion and to discover the peace potential of the religions themselves.
I wish our members good luck with their efforts, be it as a “forum” or as a “factor”. And I am looking forward to meeting many delegates at our Annual Conference in September!
Walter Lüssi, President of Oikosnet Europe