by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
at the “World Partner Forum”
(Istanbul, May 6, 2011)
|Honorable Mr. Klaus Entenmann |
Dear Members of the “World Partners Forum”,
It is a particular pleasure and privilege to address this year’s “World Partner Forum,” hosted by Daimler Financial Services Turkey. We are deeply grateful to the organizers of this unique event, and especially to Mr. Franz Koller, for the opportunity to address the distinguished international delegates, representing stakeholders around the globe, who are assembled to deliberate on the need to build and advance bridges between communities and nations.
We welcome you to the beautiful city of Istanbul, which is also the seat of the Ecumenical Throne of the Orthodox Christian Church – namely, the spiritual home of over 300 million Orthodox Christians world-wide. Here, not only the continents meet, but people from all over the world gather to enjoy the mystery and majesty, the history and story of the “Royal City,” as it is known through the ages.
We would like to assure you that our humble message comes from the heart, both because your gathering is particularly important but also because your calling, as talented and successful business leaders, is profoundly influential. In different ways, each of you will make a special and personal contribution to the direction of our world in the 21st century. We are profoundly encouraged by your thirst to learn new ways and to adopt new expressions of love in the global community.
The clear signs of your common commitment to the well-being of humanity truly serve as a beacon of hope in our world. Indeed, the “World Partner Forum” is an encounter of individuals and institutions that bodes well for our world. Yours is an involvement that highlights the supreme calling of humanity to transcend political or religious differences.
Therefore, we would like to take this opportunity to remind you of certain global realities in order to bring to your attention three essential and fundamental concerns of our modern world, which must be considered from a variety of perspectives – not only social or political, and not only economic or global, but also from a religious or spiritual point of view. It is our hope that you will appreciate these critical issues in an open-minded and open-hearted manner as you return to your respective and responsible positions. For, it is our firm conviction that these are concerns that all of us will ultimately encounter and about which all of us should be constantly in dialogue in order to pave the way toward a more peaceful and sustainable world for the sake of the present and future generations. These concerns are also a central priority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
i. Commerce and Religion: Working Together
The first concern or challenge relates to the relationship between business and faith. It is not by accident that your meeting is being held in a city that serves as a bridge between continents, civilizations, and cultures. For, this city and nation stand at the frontier between Europe and Asia, reminding us that any appropriate response to and resolution of such critical issues can only be anticipated when people of all disciplines and backgrounds, above and beyond racial or religious boundaries, meet in the earnest hope of working together for a better world.
Moreover, it is not by accident that religious leaders are increasingly invited to participate in such gatherings. For the world of faith can prove a powerful ally in efforts to address issues of social and financial justice. It provides a unique perspective – beyond the merely social, political, or economic – on the need to eradicate poverty, to provide a balance in a world of globalization, to combat fundamentalism and racism, as well as to develop religious tolerance in a world of conflict. This is why it comes as no surprise to us that the faith communities are the subject of renewed interest in international relations and global politics.
There is a fundamental and crucial Greek theological term known as “economy,” which is the unique word designating God’s unconditional love for the world. “Oikonomia” is the word reserved for the divine plan for the world’s transformation and salvation. So you see, then, that, while the theological language of religion may differ from the technical vocabulary of economics and politics, nevertheless the barriers that appear to separate religious concerns from pragmatic interests are not impenetrable.
In cases of social justice and financial reform, international business has profound interests and will play a critical role. This is why we are convinced that, if Turkey is integrated into the world economy, the gate is opened wider not only to the Islamic world, but also to the former Soviet republics with strong historic links to Turkey, such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
Furthermore, many other interests would be served by the integration of Turkey into the European Union. It would have a powerful, positive, and stabilizing effect on all of this country’s institutions, including our Ecumenical Patriarchate. We must put behind us the divisions and feuds of the past. Once, only conquest united Europe and Asia; today, commerce can achieve the same result. The modern way to bring about unity and peace is to open our borders to one another in order to let people and products flow.
Much has already been achieved in the political world. But neither politicians nor businessmen alone can heal the rifts in our society today. As we hinted earlier, religious leaders also have a central and inspirational role to play; it is we who must help bring the spiritual principles of ecumenism, brotherhood, and tolerance to the forefront. It is our strong belief at the Ecumenical Patriarchate that Orthodox Christians have a special responsibility to assist in East-West rapprochement. For like the Turkish Republic, we, too, have a foot in both worlds.
We have always lived at the crossroads between East and West; we have witnessed great suffering on both sides; and we have lived side-by-side with Moslems and Jews, developing close relationships with both. In the years ahead, we will surely continue and build upon our work to establish and enhance a dialogue between the faiths.
ii. The Protection of the Environment
The second area that requires our common concern and cooperation relates to the state of our environment and the ever-growing risk that human folly or recklessness will do irreparable damage to our beautiful but fragile planet. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has, among other initiatives, convened eight international symposia on the state of the earth and its waters. Dear friends, this issue is not about politics; it is about life. Indeed, for business leaders, it will become increasingly obvious that respect for the environment constitutes a moral duty for all, an expression of both common responsibility and simple common sense.
In recent years, we have learned some important lessons about caring for the natural environment. However, in order to draw your attention to the way in which businesspeople may respond to this issue, we would add that we have especially learned that environmental action cannot be separated from human relations. What we do for the earth is intimately related to what we do for people – whether in the context of human rights or international politics, whether with regard to poverty and social justice or world peace. It has become clearer to us that the way we respond to the natural environment is intimately and deeply connected to the way we treat human beings. The way we relate to material things and the natural environment directly reflects the way we relate to other people.
In our efforts, then, for the preservation of the natural environment, we must ask ourselves some difficult questions about our concern for other human beings and about our way of life and daily habits. How committed are we to working so that all people may have sufficient resources, so that no person suffers from poverty or hunger or unemployment? How can we direct our focus away from what we want to what the world and our neighbor need? Do we honestly do all that we can to leave as light a footprint as possible on this planet for the sake of those who share it with us and for the sake of future generations?
Caring about the world and about others is one of the fundamental choices we are free to make. Do we, therefore, choose to care? If not, then we are denying our very nature as human beings. If we do not choose to care, then we are not simply indifferent onlookers; we are in fact active aggressors. If we are not allaying the pain of others, and only see or care about our own interests, then we are directly contributing to the suffering and poverty of our world.
iii. The Importance of Dialogue
Another concern which you as leaders and as businesspeople will inevitably face, in one form or another, is the sheer diversity of the human race, namely the simple fact that humankind is divided into so many different religions, races, ethnic groups and nationalities. Whatever the nature of your business or profession, your employees and your customers invariably comprise representatives of the human race in all its wondrous variety. It follows, then, that as business leaders, and quite simply as decent and civilized human beings, you have a strong interest in the avoidance of any “clash of civilizations” between cultural or religious groups.
We hear it often stated that our world is in crisis – morally, spiritually, ecologically, economically, and politically. Yet, the truth is that never before in history have human beings had the opportunity to bring so many positive changes to so many people. Never before have human beings – and especially influential leaders, such as yourselves – had the opportunity of impacting and transforming our world so radically, both for the better and for the worse. So, while it may be true that this is a time of crisis, it must equally be underlined that there has also never been greater tolerance for respective traditions, religious preferences, and cultural peculiarities.
This is precisely why, in our Common Declaration with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, on the occasion of his visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in November 2006 for our Patronal Feast of St. Andrew, we jointly proclaimed that “we are called to work together to promote respect for the rights of every human being, created in the image and likeness of God, and to foster economic, social and cultural development.”
Dear friends, the language of God is the language of love and compassion. The only question is: will we refuse to speak the language of heaven, which includes everyone and excludes no one? Will we choose to learn new methods of communication and adopt new ways of cooperation?
In the middle of the sixth century, Barsanuphius the Great, a renowned mystic living in Palestine, remarked: “Not wounding my neighbor; that is the way of God!” We can think of no better definition of religious belief and moral practice. At the same time, however, the words of St. Barsanuphius, are especially timely for those with positions of leadership and responsibility, who strive to motivate international and interdisciplinary action in response to pressing global and financial problems.
Therefore, we congratulate you on assuming responsibility to care about our vulnerable world and on working to find ways of building bridges in our fragmented world. We pray that your deliberations will be fruitful. May the grace of God inspire all of you in both your vision and action.