The future of Europe:"Religion-Friendly" cities

Vatican City, 16 July 2013 (VIS) – From 17 to 20 July the Austrian city of Graz will host the international interreligious conference “Com Unity Spirit”, organised by, among others, the Afro-Asiatic Institute founded by the Catholic Church in 1964 with the aim of encouraging interreligious and inter-cultural dialogue through research projects, study meetings and international conferences. The city has a long tradition of participation in city life by its various religious communities, and in 1997 hosted the European Ecumenical Assembly.
The conference proposes a further step in the dialogue between religions, with a view to drafting a final message in which it will indicate what the religious communities can and should do to make cities more welcoming and respectful towards human values, in order to promote the co-existence of different religions and cultures, fully respecting the freedom of every man and woman.
Over 150 representatives of religious communities will participate, from the orthodox Serbian Bishop Andrej to the Grand Mufti emeritus of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mustafa Ceric, from the rabbi Michael Jedwany, member of the Conference of European Rabbis, to the writer Karl Veitschegger of the diocese of Graz-Seckau. Scholars and experts in interreligious dialogue have been invited to take part in the conference to discuss and share a variety of opinions not only on how to proceed in the construction of peaceful co-existence between religions, but also the idea that Europe is experiencing a phase of particular importance for its future precisely because of the presence of so many religions and cultures, which represent an important resource for times to come.
The programme includes a series of public conferences and parallel sessions in which brief texts on experiences of research and dialogue will be presented and discussed. The inaugural session will be dedicated to the theme of the relationship between political and spiritual power in the light of Christian experience from the time of the first communities until the present day. The parallel sessions, which will consider how people of different religions can live together in the same cities in peace, will focus on the following themes: the relationship between religion and spirituality, the teaching of religion, religious freedom as a universal right, the causes of potential conflict between religious communities, the socio-political role and responsibility of religions in contemporary society, and cultural and artistic expressions of religious diversity.