Religious and Intercultural Dialogue in the Context of Globalisation
Prof. Dr. Rostislav Rybakov
Dear colleagues. I intentionally use this word, “colleagues”, because all of us here in this hall are actually colleagues, whether we are journalists, scholars, leaders of religious communities, writers and even politicians. We are colleagues, because the subject that brought us here is a subject of life for all of us. This is something which gives the aim to all our activities. And if we unite in understanding of this, then probably this conference will be a great success and a turning point and starting point because all conferences should be judged not by the title, not even by the titles of the people attending, but by the results. And the results, that is actually some actions and contacts. I hope we will all exchange our addresses, we will know our names, we will know each other and we can do then something very important for this world and for the future of the world.
Well, this conference, as so many other conferences, is using the world dialogue. Dialogue is everywhere. Dialogue is in the air. And it became very fashionable during the last 10-20 years. The dialogue, the dialogue of religions, the dialogue of civilizations, the dialogue of cultures and so on. I am an old man now, I don’t want to admit it, but I am afraid that everybody understands this. And I remember, there was time when the most popular word in the mass media and even in the conversations of people between themselves, was another word: the war. I’m representing the pre- World War II generation. And there was always talk about war with Germany, against Germany, inside Germany and so on. And after that, there was a cold war, another type, but that was a world war threat. Now the war, the term “war” is more or less replaced by the word dialogue. Of course there is a war even now and we have war in Libya for example, but that’s also a sort of another type of dialogue. Not our type of dialogue, which we gathered here to discuss.
Now, why dialogue? There is a very interesting anniversary this year, partly explaining why the dialogue as a term is becoming so widespread now. And one thing is… I want to remind you, because coming from Russia is the 12-th of April, the 50-th anniversary of Gagarin’s flight in the space. The first man came to the space. 50 years. This year is also the 20-th anniversary of the end of the Cold War, more or less, but anyway. So these are two marks which are really explaining what is going on now and what we are looking for in the future.
The first: even after the Gagarin’s flight we understood, and he himself said it from there: our planet is so beautiful. But he added: but so small. It is a very small planet now. It’s not the 18-th century, to say nothing about the ancient times. It is small and it is very very vulnerable. And we understand it now to the full extend. And what is going on in one corner of the globe (the globe has no corners, but anyway you understand) affects people living thousands of miles from there. And the Cold War. In my own opinion there are no losers and winners in the Cold War, neither during nor after. But the new stage of our understanding of our life, of our future, and all dangers to the life, that is a status we came after the Cold War now. And the planet is vulnerable for everybody. Not for the working class (I’m using the quite familiar terms for Albania, and Russia of course), not the working class, not the capitalists, not Negros, no Indians, no Asians, but for everybody, for all and each. This is a special time in history when, wherever you are, whoever you are, you are faced with the same challenges. Challenges to the whole world and do each men and women.
Actually there’s a second time in the history (in a way in history, because we can speak about the similar situation many, many thousands years ago, during the prehistoric time, when each tribe could liquidate itself in case they didn’t find the common language with the other tribe or with the nature. That was a danger to mankind or to small portions of mankind at that time, whatever we call them). Of course, there could not be history in case the ancient people couldn’t find the language, the language of unity, the language of survival. At that time of course, even in case all people would disappear from the earth, nothing would actually affect the planet. The planet would be much more beautiful. Now it is a different situation; different situation because the mankind can eliminate itself definitely. Not myself, not our family, but all the people in the world quite easily. And not only people, but also the plants, the stars, seas, whatever it is. We can really destroy the planet. And paradoxically the question for unity is coming from the feeling of fear. We all want to survive, and that is what makes us, whether we are self-centered or not. That makes us, pushes us into some sort of unity. We have to stretch our hand and start the dialogue. Otherwise there will be no future for everybody. Of course I’m talking banalities, but sometimes it’s necessary to repeat the most banal things to understand what is going on.
So, the dialogue is a sort of an instrument. This is a form, but dialogue is not a monologue. It is always an attempt to explain myself, of course, but also it is not enough for me to explain myself. I want to be heard, and I want to understand the partner. And the partner wants to be heard and understood, of course. So, a dialogue I would call the instrument for unity and what is the use of unity? It seems to me absolutely clear, but still…
Now, let us turn to the dialogue of religions. We are using these words in a very positive sense. The conference on unity of religions. And all the results we see, is that it is positive, this is quite possible and so on and so on. In my opinion the question is not so simple. Not all dialogues of religions could be positive, and a lot could be quite negative. One personal remark: I would be sometimes referring to the country which is far away from Balkan, Europe and even from Russia. I mean India. To study this country I gave about 60 years of my life (of this life, speaking from Hindu point of view). So, there was a big parliament of religions. One boss in Chicago, in the end of the 19-th century and the other was in Calcutta. And there were so many, about 20 thousands of representatives of different religions, of scholars and so on. And they were all speaking from the terms of the dialogue of religions. But almost 60 percent
of the people who spoke from the stage, said that “all religions are equal, all religions are good, but my religion is more equal, my religion is much better. Please accept the truth that through my lips is coming to you. With my voice, the God is talking to you”. And there were even some absolute indecent remarks from the representative of the very tolerant Hindu community. “Well, I hate the image of your Jesus Christ, He’s so white and absolutely unlike us”. I understand it to some extent, but I do not understand when you pronounce these things at the parliament of religions. So, the dialogue of religions, if the speakers will focus on fundamental questions of religion – about the God, about the way to God and about the way of life, should I go to pilgrimage and where, should I go to Makah of should I go to Israel and so on; that is absolutely useless.
And even can make a lot of harm. And that is not for us, for the ordinary people, to speak on these terms. It is not for us: I have my own believes, it is at my home, it is at my heart. You have different believes. Of course, but you have different type of dress, you have a different accent, you have a different cuisine and so on. Should I quarrel with you, when we need unity, about your way of dressing? No. Should I quarrel about your way to God? Don’t impose that to me, that’s another thing. But that is up to you. So it is not the question of dialogue of religion to discuss these fundamental questions. At the same time we are all talking about the necessity of dialogue of religions. Why? Because, there exists another scope of problems. That all religions, especially leaders of religion can sit at the round table, in a mosque, synagogue or in a TV station, I don’t know, and to discuss how the mankind, not of this creed or another but all people, can join hands and meet the challenges. About survival of the mankind, and not for the possible victory of one religion or another. The same comes not only to religion, but also to the dialogue of all religions and science. It is still almost not going on, but we need it, especially for our children.
I’m using the word “challenges” several times, but what kind of challenges? Again I would not say “don’t look at me waiting that I will see something different from you and I will say something new for you. No. That’s why I’m a key speaker, just to underline some things. And what kind of challenges? We have a lot of. I’m not talking now about political conflicts. They are still going on, but we are happy enough that these political conflicts are not something like world on fire. Not yet, at least. But we have ecological problems for whole mankind. We have demography, of course we have cultural crisis all over the world. It is not that audience but in case I would speak in Russia I would say don’t blame the United States only, for this. You can blame the USA, you can blame Russia, you can blame my favorable India. Remember Indian cinema, which was a little bit melodramatic, but I was very kind and full of songs and dances. Now it’s full of kicks, box and all of these things. We have technological problems (look at Japan). So we have to meet all these challenges.
Now we are here actually to make plans to cure the planet, to cure the mankind, to give some help to solve the way, to light a candle in the darkness. That brings us to a very important subject. I will only name it: education. It is not only to do something, which is absolutely necessary, but it is also to educate our children, our grandchildren, and, putting in a personal touch, in already two months I would say our grand grandchildren, to save them. But to save them we have to rewrite, to some extent, our past. To show not the history of wars, but the history of human contacts. And we must make plans for future. Now, one main question: how to unite the religions, how to make the basis for education system. In all religions you have the ethical core, which is the same. If you quote some ethical sentences from the Bible, from Quran or from the Bhagavad Gita and you don’t mention from where it comes, you will never recognize because it is the same. This is the wisdom of the mankind; we must put it on ethic. Speaking at Gylen conference and not mentioning Fethullah Gylen is impossible. So I want to say that educational system of Gylen, which is spreading now all over the world – even in Russia we opened several schools in Moscow and we are planning even university on Gylen type – that is something that Turkey, new Turkey is bringing to the world. I found it is very much came to Albania, and that is something very important. There are always some people whom the contemporance never understand to the fool, like Mahatma Gandhi was. And then time comes, the generations after generations come to understand them. So it comes to Gylen. The mankind is coming to his ideas now.
I want to congratulate the organizers of this conference. The subject is very important and we already enjoyed the hospitality. What brought me, because there are many conferences as I said about dialogue, about Gylen and so on? Well, I will be frank. First of all curiosity, because I am an old man, I repeat, and I have links in different strata of society and I never, never, never met in my country any person who visited Albania. Never! So, of course I was curious to come to see with my own eyes. On the boarder I stopped for 25 minutes because the officers were seeing for the first time that type of passport. They were reading it with all eyes available. I think it is very important that Albania starts this conference and probably some movement which would be coming from here, because this is the middle of Europe, this is near to Africa to some extent, this is actually the opened door to everybody. And in Balkan region it is very important, because of the history.
Now in the very beginning, I started with the word “colleagues”. My hope is that tomorrow, by the end of this conference, we will call each other friends. And that would be one of the aims of this conference which will come through.