Conference in Athens Examines Religion in the Contemporary World


Neo-Classical Architecture of the University of Athens Photo Archive: (Eurokinissi/Thanasis Kalliaras)

ATHENS – A two-day conference, titled Religion in Contemporary World: Challenges and Prospects for Dialogue and Peace,” organized by the periodical Foreign Affairs-Hellenic Edition, and the University of Athens was held November 11 and 12.

The Ambassador of the United States to Greece, Geoffrey Pyatt, talked about the role of the United States as a guardian for freedoms and was highly caustic in his comments about Russia’s policy on Church affairs.

Assistant Professor of the Department of Theology at the University of Athens, Archimandrite Aristarchos Grekas spoke on the need to protect religious freedom. He stated, inter alia, that “key factors that pave the way for religious freedom violations are violent conflicts, poverty, inequality, weak or authoritarian state institutions, state religion, or state atheism, and cultures of intolerance and exclusion.”

First Communication Adviser of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Georgios Spyridon Mamalos talked about the convergence on numerous issues of the Churches of Rome and Constantinople as a tangible example of religious diplomacy. “Ecumenical Patriarchs Athinagoras, Dimitrios and Bartholomew, who embodied the ecumenical dialogue, also had to cope with political situations, either international or domestic, that were assessing their ecumenical openings as opportunistic. It could now be said that Orthodoxy greatly benefited from the outward orientation initiated by Ecumenical Patriarch Athinagoras and continued actively by his successors, Dimitrios and Bartholomew,” the speaker emphasized.

Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia talked about the religions and churches as agents of peace, reconciliation, and solidarity. The Metropolitan said, inter alia, that “only dialogue between cultures, societies and religious communities can promote mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, tolerance, peace, coexistence, justice, and pluralism.”