Religions for Peace
ECRL – Religions for peace – Interreligious council launched in Belgium.htm
Contributed by Jehangir Sarosh.
Dear Fellow Zarathushties
Two days ago I returned from Brussels, full of joy. In 2007, My colleague and I went and met each religious leader personally to ask them to meet and consider forming a council so that we can change the world TOGETHER.
Working together for the common good is seen as the most important way for the well being of Ahura Mazda’s creation, it is for this reason the King sent his representative, Princes Mathilde, the Vice-president was present herself and the Prime minister sent his representative, and Mr Jos Chambert was there from the European Union.
A month before that, we inaugurated the Interreligious Council of Albania (IRCA) and the President of Albania was himself present there and officially inaugurated the IRCA.
I write this in the hope that it will convince my Zarathushti sisters and brothers the importance of working together and to be involved in the building of an international Network of Zarathushties.
In the presence of HRH Princess Mathilde of Belgium the Belgian Council of Religious Leaders was launched at a ceremony in the Belgian Federal Parliament on Thursday 17 December. The leaders of major religions in Belgium signed the founding document of the council and expressed commitment to continue to strengthen interreligious relations in the country.
The process towards the establishment of an interreligious council (IRC) in Belgium began in 2007 and was helped along by Religions for Peace, Europe. Following thorough consultations and deep reflection within all the major faith communities in Belgium, their leaders were ready to present the new council to the public convinced that it will promote cohesion in society. “A lot of people believe they are reflecting, when all they are doing, is ordering their prejudices somewhat differently,” the President of the council, Rev Dr Guy Liagre said in his opening remarks. “Experience, which is gained by learning to know each other better, is the best injection against prejudices.”
Dr Liagre is the President of the United Protestant Church in Belgium. His opening remarks were followed by greetings by Bishop Athenagoras Peckstadt of the Orthodox Church on behalf of all the Christian churches, Mr Abulaziz al-Yaha and Ms Biran Tig representing Belgian Muslims, Lama Karta on behalf of the Buddhists, Mr Herman Janssens on behalf of Hindus, Mr Ramesh Mehta on behalf of the Jain community, and the Grand Rabbi of Brussels Albert Guigui.
Godfried Cardinal Danneels, Archbishop of Brussels and Mechelen and a Co-Moderator of the European Council of Religious Leaders, was first among the religious leaders to sign the founding document, followed by all the other senior leaders.
Also present were Mme Mia de Schamphelaer, Vice-President of the Belgian parliament, and Mr Van de Voorde from the Prime Minister’s office, both of whom expressed the strong commitment of Belgian authorities to support interreligious cooperation.
An exceptional music performance formed an integral part of the ceremony, underlining the many dimensions of interreligious dialogue. The groups of singers Cappella Pratensis and Ibn Batouta which sing music from the Christian and Muslim traditions respectively, performed together, allowing tones from the two traditions to intertwine and challenge each other in new, surprising and still harmonious ways.
The Belgian Council of Religious Leaders will meet at least three times every year. Among the most burning issues on the agenda is the wearing of religious symbols and cloths in public places. A statement on the issue is due in March.
“This ceremony is very encouraging,” said Vebjorn Horsfjord, General Secretary of the European Council of Religious Leaders who was present in Brussels. “It is the second launch of a national Religions for Peace interreligious council in Europe in only two months,” he said, referring to the launch of the Albanian Interreligious Council in October. “I am convinced that bringing together religious leaders to promote peaceful coexistence is a great value to any European society.”