Address By His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew At The 19th Eurasian Economic Summit

“Silk Road Economic Belt;
Economy, Energy, Forced Migration And Terrorism”

Istanbul, April 5-7, 2016

Dear Mr Akkan Suver,
Your Excellencies,
Distinguished participants,
Honorable guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, we would like to congratulate you on the occasion of the 19th Eurasian Economic Summit and to welcome you to this historic City of Istanbul, at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.

Fear has spread worldwide. Insecurity has become the only certainty for young people today. Uncertainty is in every mind and every heart. Terrorism, wars and conflicts are a constant reality. Terrorist attacks happen everywhere: from Paris to Istanbul, from Brussels to Pakistan and beyond. Unfortunately, terrorists use religious fundamentalism not only to inspire massive bloodshed, but also to inspire fear. However, the only fear that religion should ever generate is a godly one. As the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament says: “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and there is good understanding in all who practice it.” (Pr 1: 8) Fanatics and terrorists despise wisdom and God’s commandments. They may claim to believe in God, but they do not know wisdom nor live a virtuous life. Consequently, they do not truly believe in God. As we have often said: a crime in the name of religion is a crime against religion.

Thus we shall reflect upon the common values that we all share, based on the dignity of every individual human being, dignity that is inalienable according to the Orthodox Christian faith. We have the potential to oppose fear and selfishness by promoting freedom, solidarity and an inclusive society.

Freedom is a hope for the future, even when liberty is limited or denied. Faith can bear the lack of liberty because it is a mystery of freedom. There is no freedom without solidarity. Solidarity goes beyond tolerance, because it is inspired by love. It is the very experience of what the French philosopher Regis Debray calls: “a moment of brotherhood” (un instant fraternité). When we embrace and welcome ‘the other’ with genuine concern and love – as if ‘the other’ is our very own neighbor – we have laid the foundation of solidarity as the recognition of a shared dignity.

This is why the humanitarian crisis that we face, which has forced migrants fleeing from wars and other threats towards Europe should be a priority, not only for the European Union or for Turkey, but for the international community as a whole. We must work together to fight illegal immigration. For in addition to the tragic, often fatal, reality of the people who undertake illegal immigration, criminal networks make fortunes out of the misfortune of the most vulnerable. This is unbearable. Different solutions have been proposed, including initiatives to develop the countries of origin of illegal immigrants. This, however, is a long process that also requires strong actions against the violence that all to often benefits from such operations and dealing with the management of national borders. Thus, our perspective on migration issues should not be limited to Europe's borders, but should be open to full the spectrum of action in the interests of greater efficiency. Inter-religious cooperation should be part of our approach to this urgent issue. Responding to the challenge of migration will require responsibility, collective action, support and assistance for refugees, cooperation with the countries involved, tackling the causes of the wars which cause migration, creating and implementing development policies and ensuring peace.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Considering how religion can promote social inclusion and justice highlights another commitment that we should pursue. We cannot separate our concern for human dignity, human rights or social justice from our concern for ecological preservation and sustainability.  These concerns are closely linked. If we value each individual made in the image of God, and if we value every particle of God’s creation, then we must also care for each other and our world.  The ecological problem of pollution is invariably connected to the social problem of poverty; and so all ecological activity is ultimately measured and properly judged by its impact and effect upon other people, and especially the poor. To appreciate this, we should remember the powerful parable of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25, where we hear the Lord’s stark words: “I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.” (See verse 35)

We are all bound to our responsibility for and our response to environmental issues. Let us embrace the challenge that lies before us and let us draw inspiration from a godly fear that will turn us into wiser and better men and women.

Thank you!