Joining voices with other faith partners, the Conference of European Churches (CEC) emphasised the role of religion and education in dialogue in a meeting of the Interreligious and Inter-Convictional Dialogue Committee of the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe (CoE).
The meeting was held on 18 January by the EPP-Group of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
CEC Executive Secretary Rev. Sören Lenz, together with Gabriela Frey of the European Buddhist Union and Jean-François Bour of the Democracy, European Construction and Religions (DECERE), offered a joint presentation, in which they elaborated on religion’s potential for dialogue in overcoming conflict, education in the inter-religious and inter-convictional dialogue, and the promotion of diversity and inclusiveness.
“We look at education in the sense of German word Bildung, which implies professional training and fact-based learning, together with cultural knowledge, and personality development, including critical discernment and a sense of social responsibility,” they said.
“Education is not limited to school but is a lifelong activity. Education is the sense of knowledge and the perception of how others think and feel. Education is holistic and concerns the whole human individual. Empathy, respect, and self-reflection are essential aspects of this education.”
“In this sense, education is foremost about learning self-critical analysis of one’s position in relation with others who think and feel differently. For this reason, we consider education to be an essential element of dialogue, especially in inter-religious and inter-convictional dialogue,” they stated.
“The best way to counter hate is to generate confidence among people. Education and personal development are key for democratic and free societies,” stressed Rev. Lenz.
The presentation highlighted the role of faith communities in contributing to a democratic and peaceful society. They discussed educational programs that already exist in religious communities, reflecting on finding fruitful ways of building bridges through the Dialogue Committee.
CEC and the European Buddhist Union initiative are both participatory members of the Council of Europe, the Inter-religious and Inter-convictional Dialogue Committee. CEC Executive Secretary Rev. Sören Lenz and Gabriela Frey serve as committee co-chairs. The committee, established last year at the INGO Conference upon recommendation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the CoE, aims to contribute to dialogue in bringing together several other European faith-based NGOs.
The EPP Group for intercultural dialogue, with MEP Jan Olbrychtits as co-president, has a tradition of engaging in dialogue with Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and Jewish communities.