Den Dialog beginnen

Dialog heißt, dass es verschiedene Ausprägungen – im Islam ebenso wie in der so genannten christlichen Welt – gibt und geben soll.
Wie bereits mehrmals erwähnt: Der Nahe Osten und der Dialog der Religionen haben für uns eine zunehmend zentrale Bedeutung bekommen.

In den Dialog eintreten

Nicht zuletzt bei meinem jüngsten Besuch in Syrien habe ich immer wieder betont, dass unsere Stabilität nicht unwesentlich von der Stabilität im Nahen Osten abhängt. Und unsere christlich geprägte Welt muss auch mit der islamisch geprägten Welt in einen sinnvollen Dialog eintreten.
Dialog heißt dabei nicht, dass man die Position der anderen Seite widerspruchslos akzeptiert. Dialog heißt, dass es verschiedene Ausprägungen – im Islam ebenso wie in der so genannten christlichen Welt – gibt und geben soll. Dialog ist etwas Offenes, etwas stets Fließendes. Man muss dabei bereit sein, immer wieder neue Erkenntnisse zu verarbeiten und dennoch muss man Standpunkte, die man als richtig erachtet, vertreten und darf nicht klein beigeben und den Schwanz einziehen.

Naher Osten und Religion

Unsere Fraktion hat in diesen Tagen ein Seminar veranstaltet, das sich gerade mit diesen beiden Fragen – dem Dialog mit dem Nahen Osten, insbesondere in Zusammenhang mit dem Libanon-Krieg und dem Dialog zwischen den Religionen – beschäftigt. Ich selbst war eingeladen worden, beim Arbeitsabendessen eine kurze Rede zu halten und auf diese beiden Aspekte etwas näher einzugehen. Ich hielt meine Rede auf Englisch und möchte sie im Folgenden auch so wiedergeben:
I want to start with a personal remark. I am old enough to be politically educated by the great Austrian socialist and one of the leaders of the Socialist International, Bruno Kreisky. It was Bruno Kreisky who together with Olaf Palme and above all Willy Brandt decades ago tried to develop a dialogue of all relevant parties in order to create the conditions for peace in the Middle East.
Unfortunately it was not possible in that time, and unfortunately we still have war and conflict and not peace and stability. But the basic lines of these great personalities of the Socialist International are still valid. It is our obligation to take up these lines, to follow them and to have the strong determination not to be quiet, not to lean back but try again to create peace and stability.

North and south in the Mediterranean

The first important point for me is the relation between north and south in the Mediterranean. This relationship has a long history of connection and cooperation, of interdependence on the one side and of competition, of war and domination on the other side. If you look at Hellenistic times, at the Roman empire, at the Arab and Islam rise, at the Ottoman empire, at colonialism and neo-colonialism you find all these elements in these different periods.
Apropos neo-colonialism: you only have to look at the events at the Suez-Canal, to the removal of Mosadequ disposal in Iran and to the recent Iraq war to see that colonialistic, imperialistic behaviour has not ended with the official end of colonial empires.

Positive elements

Secondly, religion in all these different periods played an important role: the Catholicism, the Orthodoxy, the Islam and the Judaism. Symbol for these conflicts of course is Jerusalem, if I think about the different crusades and the fight about conquering Jerusalem. It is very clear that many of the wars and killings, many of the fights against each other were connected with religious questions and the domination of Jerusalem.
Thirdly: Let us not forget that there are also very positive elements in this relationship. If I think about trade, many of the spices and fruits not only from the region but from outside the region came versus trade with this area into our European countries. Concerning science and philosophy, many Europeans think they have always been the great inventors. They have not always been the inventors. Many elements have been developed in this Islam or Arab world or the Islam and the Arab world were transmitting knowledge and philosophical insights to our cultures. And there is mutual influence between the Christian and the Islam arts.
In this sense it is not only a history of fights about political and religious domination. It is also a history of mutual benefits, of mutual positive influence which is characterising the relationship between North and South in the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, the history of this very complicated and often conflictious relationship is difficult to transform into a future of cooperation, of clear benefits and of peace and stability.

The Middle East conflict

We have to deal with two elements. The first of course is the Middle East conflict. Here we have a double responsibility. Europe has a long history of suppression, prosecution and finally also physical extermination of the Jews: the Holocaust. This development promoted and enhanced Zionism and moved to create Israel as the state of the Jews. And this created a very difficult situation for many Arabs and Palestinians. Many had to leave, many left. So we had a double responsibility for the security of Israel, so that Jews in Israel can live in security and peace. But we had also responsibility that Palestinians can live in peace and have an own state.
I want to remind you that the UN resolution of 1947 was adopted to create two independent states: Israel and Palestine. It is true that Israel is not able yet to live in full security, but this is especially true for the Palestinians. Therefore we need a resolution where we have a Palestinian state and have all people sitting around the table and try to create a region of stability and peace. It will not be easy and will not be possible from today to tomorrow. But Europe has to play an important role to speak with all the forces and to bring them on the table.
We have too many preconditions. If you think how long it needed that the Irish republic recognized the borders to the United Kingdom. It was only after the Good Friday agreement in the nineties. If you think how long it took Helmut Kohl to recognize the Oder-Neisse border. It is true that they didn´t want to change the border by force before recognizing it. But the recognition as such came very late, more or less after everything has been solved and not years and decades before.

Dialogue with the Islam

Let me now come to the second issue we have to deal with very closely: the dialogue with the Islam. The Islam today plays a changed role for Europe. It is no longer an outside religion which is present in other countries. No, the Islam is present in our own countries. In many of our countries the Islam is already in the second position. Still there is a big difference between the number of people who belong to Christian religion and the number of people who belong to the Islam in our so called Christian Europe. But it is an interior and not only an outside factor.
Secondary, the Islam is more and more the religion of the poor part of our society. Immigration, poverty and Islam are very much connected and there are many prejudges in our own society against all these three elements. And of course there is a rising fundamentalism and a very small minority of terrorists. This also has a negative impact on the attitude of the non Islamic society towards the Islamic society. And there is often a confusion of Islam, Islamism, Fundamentalism, Terrorism, without defining a clear position.

Unfortunate speech of the Pope

The reaction of the Christianity against the intrusion of the Islam world into our Christian world and especially of the Catholic world is sometimes very negative. The words of Pope Benedict during his last visit to Germany are a significant example of this negative attitude, words which suppose that those who belong to the Islam are principally aggressive against any other kind of society and religion. The reference to historical judgements from the Byzantine era, in this unfortunate speech of the Pope, provoked quite a lot of hatred in the Islam world. I will not accept the burning of churches, the hatred and similar kinds of reaction. But I understand the bad feelings towards this attitude of the Pope. I don´t think the Popes words expressed by chance. This was not an accident, it was not a mistake. It was deliberately done.
One of the persons who in the last years distributed and promoted especially hate against the Islam was Oriana Fallaci, an Italian journalist and publisher who recently died. Some weeks before the Pope´s speech she was visiting him. There is evidence that some in the Catholic circles and some of the people around the Pope want to have a spiritual crusade against the Islam. We don´t need new crusades we need a renewed and reinforced dialogue.


In this respect there are two elements which have to be taken into account. The one is the Euro-Islam. That is an Islam which is not leaving behind the main elements of the religion but which prepares the believers to adopt themselves to the conditions of a non-Islam environment. And finally the world is an environment which is not predominantly Islam. There are Christians of different orientations, there are Hinduism, Buddhism and other religions. In a globalised world we have to take into account the existence of different religions. It is not the time of Mohammed, it is the time of today. And in Europe with its culture, its tradition, its basic elements there are other conditions than in predominantly Islam countries.
Human rights, minority rights have to be valid for every country, this is the purpose of the universal declaration of the human rights. But especially in Europe we have to adept to the specific conditions here. When I met the Grand Mufti of Sarajevo he made very clear that the Arab Islamism, the Islam orientation and the Europe-Islam orientation are not the same. People have to realize in which kind of world they live. They have to respect their values and their religion, but they have to confront them positively with the other majority positions of the citizens in Europe.

Separation of state and religion

A second point is the question how we deal with the religion in our secular societies. I am absolutely promoting the secular society, the separation of state and religion. But there is a religious factor. For many people religion plays an enormous role. We have to recognize this. We have to recognize that for them religious values are very important elements for their general orientation and often for their daily lives. But that must not mean that we accept the mixture of religion and politics.
Because we accept and respect religion we have to make clear on the other hand that politics has to do what politics has to do. And religion is an individual orientation of people for their live. If we respect that religion plays a big role for many people on the one hand and if we accept that religion and state, religion and politics stay separated on the other hand, we make a big step forward in defending stability and peace in modern society and globally.

Brüssel, 23.9.2006