Conference of European Churches Speaks Out on Cartoon Controversy

|TOP|The general secretary of the Conference of European Churches has issued a statement in response to the chaos and controversy caused by the publication in several European countries of a series of cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Mohammad.

In the statement, the Venerable Colin Williams reiterated the CEC’s position on cultural and religious diversity within Europe as laid down in the Charta Oecumenica, which states that "we consider the diversity of our regional, national, cultural and religious traditions to be enriching for Europe...The churches are called upon to serve together the cause of reconciliation among peoples and cultures.”

The Charta also includes a section on relations with Islam which states that the CEC “would like to intensify encounters between Christians and Muslims and enhance Christian-Islamic dialogue at all levels.”

|QUOTE|The Charta adds: “We commit ourselves to conduct ourselves towards Muslims with respect.”

Ven. Williams also came out in support of the statement released by the Committee for Church and Religious Encounter of the Church of Denmark which addressed the need to find a proper balance between freedom of speech and the need to respect others.

He said: “We agree wholeheartedly with the Committee’s statement that ‘to provoke and offend the individual’s faith for the sake of provocation in itself serves no purpose’.”

|AD|The statement by the general secretary of the CEC continued: “As a conference of churches we believe that in relation to other faith communities who share this continent with us we need to show humility and openness, ready to listen to their insights whilst ready at the same time to be open and honest about points at which we differ.

“We seek to speak openly about the need to stand against images of confrontation within civil society and to work for that reconciliation of which the Charta Oecumenica speaks.”

The CEC regularly engages in dialogue with representatives of the Islamic community in Europe together with Roman Catholics within the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) as part of a continuing process to achieve reconciliation and greater mutual understanding.

“We do not act alone in this and know that throughout Europe individual churches are also involved in promoting dialogue with our sister and brother Europeans who hold the Islamic faith,” said the CEC.

The Conference of European Churches (CEC) is a fellowship of some 125 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic Churches from all countries of Europe, plus 40 associated organisations. CEC was founded in 1959. It has offices in Geneva, Brussels and Strasbourg.