From the 6th to the 9th of July 2015 a group of Dominican friars belonging to the "Espaces" network came together from different Study Centers in Europe (Institut 'Marie-Dominique Chenu', Berlin - Centro Espaces 'Giorgio La Pira', Pistoia - Dominican Study Center Istanbul (DoStI) and Bruxelles) and met at the Dominican Priory of Istanbul. One of their aims was to meet and discuss the relationship between religion and society with experts from Turkey.
At the end of the gathering, we would like to share the fruits of our meeting and to send a message to our communities and the whole Dominican Order. This is a short reflection as the discussion is ongoing.
We are living at a time in which many relational connections are becoming weaker (in spite of the reality of increased global travel and exposure). Connections are weaker between people in Europe, persons in our towns and communities, people of different cultures and religions in the international context, and the links between human beings and the environment. We have met together as a sign that there is the possibility to share our experiences and researches and by doing so living our mission as a calling to communicate and transmit our hopes. We are aware that today the Gospel calls us to build bridges, to open ways to lived experiences of community that are open to otherness. We are aware that there could be a future for individuals and societies if only we are willing to share our responsibilities for others.
We have met as Dominican brothers called to preaching. Preaching implies both hearing and talking: hearing the word of God and the words of those who are suffering. Talking implies entering into a dialogue of salvation. By learning to talk together and to share our projects and desires we can build something new and different for a common future. We gathered to talk because we are afraid that when different human beings do not communicate, they close themselves off and generate a context of conflict and exclusion.
We have come here from different countries in Europe. We met the day after the referendum in Greece. We have experienced our differences as an opportunity. We think that the European project was born out of the tragedy of a global war, after the Shoah, by sharing projects of solidarity and by defending human rights. We think that this crisis could be a transition time leading us to choose deeper relationships among the States of the Union with a new shared political project based on solidarity and a responsibility for its partners as well.
We met in Istanbul and discussed about the situation in the region of the Mediterranean sea: the Near Eastern crisis, the war in Syria, the political situation in North-Africa and Turkey, the development of "Islamic State" with its violent global terrorism. Speaking with Islamic and Turkish scholars we discussed relationships between religion and society in different contexts. We have become aware of the debates and researches which are present in the Islamic contexts too. We reflected deeply particularly on the question of how it is possible to participate in the common good, living religious experience in a way that contributes to the peaceful development of societies.
We are worried because of an increasingly more negative attitude towards foreigners, particularly towards Muslim immigrants and their descendants, in our European countries. There is a pervasive superficial identification of Islam with terrorism and violence. There are growing irrational fears that in the future Europe would become a Muslim continent and also the conviction that Muslims are not able to integrate into a democratic society because of their culture. We think that we have to make a clear distinction between those who practice violence and those who are believers. We have to condemn and oppose - together with Muslims who are longing for peace - those who practice and feed violence, while at the same time we are called to a dialogue in hospitality with all people who are looking for dignity, freedom and justice.
We believe that it is important that the presence of Dominican communities remain in regions of majority Islamic tradition and we hope that this presence will be maintained in the future with the solidarity of the provinces.
We think that the phenomenon of migration from the poor countries of the earth to Europe is a sign of our time. These migrations are also caused by deep root causes, which are often hidden or not well known. Western countries are particularly responsible for local wars, violence, oppressions, injustice, and exploitation of land. From this perspective migrations are a consequence of an unequal economic systems, injustices and indifferences. We have to remember that migrants are human beings and as humans we share the same origins with them, all being made in the image of God. We think that the sufferings of migrants are a cry in which we are reminded of the word of Jesus: I was a stranger and you welcomed me… (Mt 25,35). Our responsibility is finding ways to share in their hopes and to offer them a hope/vision of a future.
We think that their lives and hopes are an invitation for us to hear what the gospel is calling us to do. They provoke us to do theology in relationship to present sufferings, provoking us to read the signs of our time. We are also called to promote a praxis of hospitality in different levels of our life as a witness of salvation for all people. As Dominicans we have a particular responsibility to do so in this time.
Friars Thomas Eggensperger, Ulrich Engel, Bernhard Kohl, Ignace Berten, Claudio Monge, Luca Refatti, Alessandro Cortesi
(05 September 2015)