EBU President attends EU meeting with religious leaders
Every year, the European Union has a ‘high-level meeting’ with European religious leaders. The theme of this year’s meeting was: “The Future of Europe: a value-based and effective Union”.
The EBU has attended several of these meetings in the past, and this year, our new president Ron Eichhorn gave a voice to Buddhism in Europe…
A report by Ron Eichhorn, Berlin 14 November, 2017
On November 7th, 2017, I was invited to take part in the 13th annual „High level meeting of religious leaders“ as president of the European Buddhist Union. The meeting was held at the invitation of European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and European Parliament First Vice President Mairead McGuinness. Also present was Ján Figel, who is EU Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion.
The topic was focusing on “The Future of Europe: a value-based and effective Union”.
There were altogether 10 participants from Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious organizations, as well as myself representing the Buddhist community in Europe. The complete list of participants follows at the end of this report.
Instead of reading out pre-written statements, a live dialogue was organised about the values which the EU should focus on in the near future. Personally, I appreciate this kind of environment, and I could contribute well, I think.
VP Mr. Timmermans spoke first, explaining that for too many years, the EU was treating its citizens like customers, but that economics and a common currency were only tools. It was now important to face on common values. He and Mrs. Mc Guiness encouraged the religious leaders in their work in sharing values, respecting differences and fostering mutual understanding.
I took the floor early to express that from a Buddhist point of view, the very concept of having a united Europe is very much appreciated, since „unity in diversity“ is a core Buddhist value, and we also regard all humanity as a family, hence we do not want to build borders or walls, but bridges.
Also, I said that I think there is a lack of dialogue between the EU government and the people in Europe, which is why the values of the EU are not communicated and in many countries nationalism is on the rise, resulting in unfortunate events like the Brexit. I also mentioned that honesty was a core value which is often overlooked, and many times politicians speak nicely but do not act accordingly.
On a later intervention, I mentioned the need for the EU to inspire its citizens, and a lively discussion evolved around the need to especially focus on young people – pupils and students especially – who are our future. Most people in the room, including myself, expressed that proper spiritual education in schools was lacking in many countries of the EU, so children would be able to learn working with values instead of only learning to use modern technology. This also resulted in a sort of action plan: The EU commission wants to organize an inter-faith event, possibly in 2018, for young people. I am in contact with Mr. Vincent Depaigne, who will be in charge of this event.
Following the meeting, we had a press conference in the EU press room, followed by a lunch together in the dining room of the EU president. There, Mrs. Seyran Ates, a female Imam from Berlin joined us and reported about a liberal mosque which she is heading in Berlin. This most is open to all muslims, men, women and transgender, and also welcomes worshippers from other religions. I was personally invited to visit this mosque, an invitation which I have gladly accepted.
Full List of Participants:
* Imam Seyran ATEŞ, Founder of the Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque in Berlin
* Metropolitan CLEOPAS of Sweden and all Scandinavia, Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
* Elder Massimo DE FEO, Europe area Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints
* Mr Ron EICHHORN, President of the European Buddhist Union
* Metropolitan EMMANUEL of France, Vice-President of the Conference of European Churches, Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
* Rabbi Albert GUIGUI, Chief Rabbi of Brussels
* Bishop Jean-Claude HOLLERICH, Archbishop of Luxembourg
* Imam Tareq OUBROU, Grand Imam of Bordeaux
* Ms Irmgard SCHWAETZER, President of the Synod of the Evangelic Church of Germany (EKD)
* Bishop Noel TREANOR, Bishop of Down and Connor
* Archbishop Urmas VIILMA, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Estonia