Polarization and discrimination based on religion or belief have been increasing in many parts of the world, including on the two shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The current global health emergency seems, unfortunately, to have amplified this crisis for, as the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has noted, the current Covid-19 pandemic keeps unleashing “a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering”. Against this gloomy background, however, seeds of hope have emerged from a number of high profile interventions of religious leaders committed, in the very name of the theologies and social ethics of their traditions, to achieving inclusive and peaceful societies, respecting the cultural and religious diversity of humankind and building an integral vision of human and sustainable development. In particular, the voice of religions has been courageously raised to advocate the development of new forms of inclusive citizenship, moving away from the numerical approach of majorities and minorities and the protection of religious minorities as the normative framework for inclusive and peaceful societies. From an Islamic perspective, the 2016 Marrakesh Declaration recognised the principles of pluralism and religious freedom and the authenticity of the concept of citizenship in Islam. Last year in an unprecedent meeting Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Ahmad al-Tayyeb signed the Document on Human Fraternity and unmistakably argued: “It is therefore crucial to establish in our societies the concept of full citizenship and reject the discriminatory use of the term minorities which engenders feelings of isolation and inferiority […] and takes away the religious and civil rights of some citizens who are thus discriminated against”. The recent encyclical by Pope Francis ‘Fratelli Tutti’ further deepened the theological foundation of this position by making clear that freedom and equality, especially with reference to religion, inexorably descend from the universal value of fraternity.
The embrace of inclusive citizenship reflects new interreligious dynamics and the maturation of positive religious models of religious pluralism. Interreligious dialogue and collaboration - from global high levels to local grassroots and increasingly driven by young people and women rather than the “usual” religious suspects - represent arguably one of the most dynamic and promising areas of active citizen participation. It also represents new socio-political leadership against the contemporary background of democratic crisis marked by disengagement, disenchantment and a rejection of public responsibility and the search for the common good. The international community has finally started to recognize the positive impact of religion in fostering peaceful and inclusive societies, even if religious and interreligious actors are still rarely welcome at the leading global policy tables. Over the last 10 years, the ISPI Religions and International Relations initiative with the support of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, has contributed to raise the awareness of how engaging religion in foreign policy can be part of the solution to solve our common challenges. Believing that the North and South shore of the Mediterranean are therefore facing similar challenges in different forms and rejecting the assumption of the traditional flow of knowledge from the North to the South, this Forum Religions will convene the two following Mediterranean dialogues:
• Human Fraternity and Interreligious Engagement for Peaceful and Inclusive Societies
• Religion and Inclusive Citizenship in the Euro-Med Space
Watch the Forum Religions, "Human Fraternity & Inclusive Citizenship".