The three days of our Conference have moved along at a powerful pace. A vast pool of knowledge and experience – the result of study and of a way of life – which has been set before us by wise religious and spiritual leaders, has enriched our thinking. New horizons have opened up in our thinking with regard to the critical problems of the world and our level of sensitivity towards the pain and injustice in our societies has been raised. In declaring the end of this conference at this closing ceremony, we are conscious of our responsibility for the establishment of peace on earth and for the prevalence of justice and freedom among all nations.
We are indeed living in a critical age. Since 1945 and the appearance of nuclear weapons, mankind has entered a new period of its history – a nuclear age. For the first time in history we are in a position to extinguish the whole of human civilisation. It is no wonder that people all over the world speak with longing of peace.
Among the contemporary world powers with their nuclear arms, there exists a deterrent peace which walks a thin tightrope along the delicate balance of the ability to cause mass destruction. This technocratic world peace is founded on fear and distrust. But this is not the religious vision of peace. Peace is more than just absence of war and the threat of war.
Since Roman times, people have accepted in their lives the motto “Sic vis pacem, para bellum”. Thai is to say, if you desire peace, prepare for war. But in today’s world a new principle is needed: “Sic vis pacem, para pacem”. If you desire peace, prepare for peace. Find the principles on which it is founded and try to ensure that they belong to everyone. When the touch of a button is enough to send us back to the Stone Age, men, at least men of God, cannot prepare war.
The pursuit of peace must not of course be the result only of the fear of war, and have only a negative starting point. From the positive point of view peace is a supreme benefit of mankind. We do not speak here only of the development of the Arts and Letters, material prosperity and scientific progress in times of peace. The struggle for peace too has positive results. It brings people closer together and helps them to understand each other better, to reach a deeper understanding of the problems of humanity and to tackle all problems with a new sense of responsibility. All people who struggle for peace experience a spiritual renewal of their existence and of their life’s purpose.
The struggle for peace, and in consequence, for justice, fraternity and freedom, has no boundaries or frontiers and no religious or denominational restrictions. It is this cause that has united us all during these three days: Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, people from all faiths. We may not all believe in the same God, even Christians may not all attribute the same properties to Him – and this meeting does not demean anyone’s faith, not does it lead to any kind of comparativism – but as people, with the same nature, we all have the same sensitivities to the great problems of mankind.
It is a common conviction of all that the source of peace is God. But it is also commonly acknowledged that it is not just an external gift coming from Him, but the result of the efforts of individuals and peoples.
In the present day, when the easy movement of people of all races and colours around the globe and the modern means of communication have transformed the world into a small neighbourhood, and now that our countries and cities have become multi-cultural, there is no excuse for ignoring peace. The meeting of peoples must lead to understanding and respect for the rights of all men and women and to the establishment of true peace.
That is why we here in Cyprus cannot bear the injustice and violation of our human rights. In the 21st century, when Europe is united, Nicosia is divided by a wall of occupation. When travel visas are being abolished everywhere and people have the right to settle in any country they wish, we do not have the right to return to our homes and properties from where we were forcibly evicted. When the settlement of foreigners is considered a war crime by the civilised world, Turkey has proceeded barbarically and with impunity to bring foreign settlers to our land. And when humanity takes pride in its cultural heritage, the works of previous generations - over 500 churches, castles and theatres that bear witness to our uninterrupted presence in Cyprus for 35 centuries - are systematically destroyed. Can there be peace in these circumstances? Is this the peace we have been speaking about for three days?
We appeal to the humanism of you all. We appeal to your religious feelings. Exercise your influence wherever you can: to the governments of your countries, to international decision-making centres, so that we too can find justice and so that peace can come at last to this long-suffering island. We do not wish anyone to suffer injustice. Peace, as we have defined it here, means the co-existence of the freedom of one with the freedom of all the rest.
We are convinced that you will not turn a deaf ear to this appeal, and we therefore thank you in advance. In any case, it was your passion and desire for peace that has led you to come here, despite the hardships of travel and your heavy programme.
In declaring the close of this meeting and evaluating our deliberations as positive, we thank you all for your participation. We wish you a safe return to your homes and implementation of our findings. We look forward to our next meeting in 2009.
Holy Archbishopric of Cyprus
18 November 2008