BRUSSELS - About twenty senior representatives from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim religions as well as from the Buddhist communities met in Brussels Monday at the invitation of European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and co-chaired by Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament and Herman Van Rompuy, President of the EU. They discussed effective ways to build a partnership for democracy and shared prosperity between Europe and its neighborhood. Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, Van Rompuy said: "let us not forget history. It is on the march in North Africa and the Arab world." "These revolutions are not the work of fanatics or extremists. On the contrary they prove that there is no contradiction between Islam and Democracy, “he stressed.
This was the seventh in a series of annual meetings launched by Barroso in 2005. This is the second time that the meeting takes place in the context of the Lisbon Treaty which foresees that the EU maintains an "open, transparent and regular dialogue" with religious communities in Europe.
On his part, Barroso said: "our task and ambition is to promote democracy, pluralism, the rule of law, human rights and social justice not only in Europe but also in our neighborhood." "And when we speak about freedom, of course we speak also about religious freedom. The freedom to have a religion - this is more important than ever when we see some of the transitions that are now taking place," he added.
Buzek said that "religious communities are of paramount importance for the social fabric in EU countries. The European Parliament always stressed that the freedom of religion or belief is one of the most fundamental human rights." Shaykh Dr. Mustafa Ceric Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina told the press conference that he was very glad that the fugitive Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic has been arrested.
"My community suffered genocide at the end of the 20th century as a Muslim community," he said.
Ceric said Islam teaches that all religious minorities in Muslim countries have five basic rights, the right to life, religion, freedom, property and dignity and urged Muslim-Christian reconciliation in Egypt.
He noted that Bosnian Muslims five centuries ago saved Jews from Spain who were persecuted there.
"As far as I am concerned I am proud of my religion, and contribution of my community to freedom in Europe," stressed Ceric. (KUNA)