A Culture of Peace (Lille Declaration)
Our various religious traditions call us to promote a culture of peace. They promotepeacebased on theirholistic understanding of the inviolable dignityof human life in relationship to their awareness of its sacred origin. Peace of the heart and mind and peace of society are intrinsically linked. Peace and justice are inseparable, as are truth and reconciliation. Peace is for the hungry to be fed, the poor to be sustained, the sick to experience care, the oppressed to be released and the marginalized to have a voice. Peace is protection against violence,and it is experienced when warfare and armed conflicts are translated into development and nation building.
Each particular culture is unique and can be understood as a set of shared meanings and values that inform a way of life. In our use of the term, a “culture of peace” refers to those peace-related meanings and values that can be widely shared bythe world’s diverse cultures. Thus a culture of peace respects and is built fromthe contributions ofthe distinct and diverse cultures inthe world. Religion is closely linked to culture and is a vital source for fostering a culture of peace.
I: The Role of Religions in the Promotion of a Culture of Peace
- The spiritual dimension of religions: Religions cultivate the human spirit through spiritual practices that aim at the realisation of genuine peace both within each believer and in the wider human family. Its power can show itself in the ability to bear the unbearable, find hope where there appear to be no grounds for hope and in forgiving the unforgivable. It is also manifest in celebration of beauty and cultivation of virtue.
- The ethical dimension of religions: From the spiritual depths of religions spring ethical systems which guide the lives of millions. Religious leaders on all levels can speak with moral authority on values that are deeply held and widely shared by most religious traditions and which correspond to the values in a culture of peace. Among these are respect fortheinviolable dignity of each person expressed in concern for human rights, justice, compassion for the afflicted, care for the earth and its creatures, and commitment to non-violence.
- The social dimension of religions: Religious traditions have vertical and horizontal structures that give them unique channels for influence and exchange of ideas and insights. In every town and village there is a place where people gather for worship: a church, a mosque, a synagogue, a temple or a gurudwara. Through varying types of networks these are linked to similar places in other locations, and to national and international bodies, thus allowing the interests of men and women everywhere to be heard by national and international leaders, and national and international insights to be disseminated to the local level. All religious traditions emphasise the importance of education, instruction and formation of children and young people. This social dimension of religions provides great potential for communication and thereby furthering a culture of peace.
- The cultural dimension of religions: All religions relate to culture and can contribute to building traditions that support peace by interpreting sacred texts andtraditions and applying them under changing circumstances. Thus they bind together the lives of past, present and future generations. Explicitly and implicitly religions tell and retell stories which form the identity of the faithful and define their relationships to others. Religious narratives have the power to confirm and to challenge the present order of things.
II: Elements ofa Culture of Peace
- A culture of peace is a way of living together in society which ensures the dignity of all. In a culture of peace the equal value of men and women is affirmed, as is the equal value of all regardless of their ethnicity or religious affiliation. A culture of peacepromotes responsible stewardship of the natural environment and justice between the generations and permeates our relationships from the local to the global level.
- A culture of peace fosters tolerance and dialogue. Tolerance can help in the search forharmony indifference and affirms the standards set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It shouldnot mean acceptance of social injustice or the abandonment or weakening of one’s convictions. It means that one is free to adhere to one’s own convictions and acceptthat others adhere to theirs. From genuine tolerance followsrecognition offreedom of religion.A culture of peace leads to dialogue and supports the knowledge, respect and appreciation of the other as elaborated in our Berlin Declaration on Interreligious Dialogue (2008). Tolerance respects the dignity of the other.
- Conflict isintrinsic in all cultures, but must not be allowed to lead to violenceand oppression. Conflicting interests and views are not in themselves a threat to peace. They present a challenge to creatively harmonise different interests. In a culture of peace everyone should striveto transformsituations ofconflicting interestsso that theirpower and dynamism arechanneled into creative development which promotes peace and harmony.
- A culture of peace is a culture of mutuality and shared security. A culture of peace nurturesmutual respect which allows all to participate with integrity in society.Promoting a culture of peace implies exploring together the concept of shared security, the recognition thatthewellbeing and security of individuals and groups depend on that of the others,as elaborated in the 2006 Eighth World Assembly of Religions for Peace and the Religions for Peace World Summit of Religious Leaders on the Occasion of the G8 Summit, Hokkaido, Japan, 2008.
III: TenCommitments to work for a Culture of Peace
As senior religious leaders in Europewe commit ourselves to further a culture of peace:
- We will explore, emphasise and nurture thosespiritual resources in our individual traditions which promote the values which are fundamental to a culture of peace. We will promote responsible interpretations of texts and traditionsthat are used or misused to promote strife among people.
- We will lead by example and as role modelsseek to address conflict among ourselves and representatives of our religious traditionswith peaceful means, transforming situations of conflicting interestsinto opportunities for dialogue and cooperation.
- We will foster spiritual growth among people within our religious traditions and develop the formational side of our religions encouraging people to play a role in societyas promoters of values of peace while showing in practice their respect for those with other religions, convictions or points of view.
- We will ensure that the values of a culture of peace are known and promoted in all institutions and settings where there is religious education or training for children, thusensuring that new generations grow up well equipped to meet the challenges of plural societies where people of different backgrounds must live together peacefully.
- We will seek opportunities to promote policies and decisions in the political sphere that further peace, and we will together lift our voices, across religious divides, against forces which promote violence and block dialogue.
- We will encourage all those within our faith communities who are involved in practical work of charity to understand themselves as ambassadors of a culture of peace and thus find inspiration to strengthen and develop this concrete caring expression of our religions.
- We will foster interreligious dialogue among all people in Europe and on all levels, from the local communities to national and international leaders. We will encourage all to take note of the principles for interreligious dialogue spelt out in our Berlin Declaration on Interreligious Dialogue (2008).
- We will explore the life and activities of our own religious communities critically to understand how and when they can be an obstacle to peace. We will engage in intra-religious dialogue with, and when necessary confront, those who belong to our own religions but whose practice of traditions are incompatible with peaceful coexistence.
- We will be open to cooperation with all people of good will and all institutions, religious or not, who are promoting the basic values of a culture of peace.
- We will make our explorations together and the content of this declaration known to religious people across our continent and to the wider public, and we will have a lastingcommitment to its values and ideasrecognising that a culture of peace can only be realised in full in the long termas new generations are fostered and learn from the shortcomings of our present generations and from the insights we have gained in interfaith dialogue and praxis.