Perhaps one of the most difficult and complex global analyzes for the Egyptian academic researcher, is my perception of a special future vision revolving around (the role of the Egyptian Orthodox Church in the possibility of its leadership in the international Orthodox church scene to resolve the religious dispute between Russian and Ukrainian priests and Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox cathedrals), especially on the impact of the issue of politicizing the religious dispute between the two churches for purely political reasons through Turkish politicians to play a role in that crisis, through (Patriarch of Constantinople “Bartholomew” in Istanbul, Turkey, confessing the separation of the Ukrainian Church).
Therefore, the Egyptian researcher monitored and analyzed a number of the following points to understand the roots of the dispute between the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches and the role of Turkey in it. The scholar here is attempting to make and create such a role for the Orthodox Church in Egypt, to play a conscious religious role for the (unity of Eastern Orthodox Christian peoples around the world), and ultimately contribute to (resolving the political dispute between Moscow and Kiev), which caused the separation of the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches from each other in September 2018, as follows:
The Egyptian researcher noted the extent of (the Turkish government’s interference and politicization of Orthodox church religious affairs in the face of Russia and Ukraine), through its interference in the affairs of the Orthodox Church of the Great Cathedral in Constantinople, to the extent of (compulsory Turkish President “Erdogan” to religious leaders in the Constantinople Orthodox Church in Istanbul, Turkey, that the nationality of the Pope and the Grand Patriarch of the Orthodox Church in Constantinople is Turkish, despite the presence of prominent priests, monks and priests of different nationalities), which confirms the validity of my new international analysis, regarding “Turkey’s politicization of the issue of the religious-ecclesiastical conflict” between Russia and Ukraine for political reasons related to Turkey and its political relations.
According to my analysis of the reasons for Turkey’s politicization of the religious role of the Turkish Ecumenical Church in Istanbul in the face of Russia in the first place, it is the Turkish desire to exploit this ecclesiastical religious crisis between Russia and Ukraine, in order to (create a kind of Turkish rapprochement with members of “NATO” and the Western and American camp in Confronting Russia, using the religious pressure card by the Constantinople Church in Istanbul, Turkey by recognizing the separation of the Ukrainian Church from its Russian counterpart), which creates a burning crisis between the two sides in favor of passing a number of Turkish policies and decisions in the face of everyone to pass their interests. Given that the separation of the Russian and Ukrainian churches is the major crisis between the two parties that led to this conflict in the end, and may be one of the direct causes of the current crisis between Russia and Ukraine. Then the direction of my academic vision towards the extent of the possibility of (developing a future vision for the role of the Egyptian Orthodox Church and Pope Tawadros II, in resolving that future religious conflict between Russia, Ukraine and Turkey), and its role in the unity of the Eastern Orthodox Christian peoples.
My raising of this point comes, especially after a turmoil was aroused in all Coptic and international ecclesiastical circles in confusing (the recognition of the Greek Orthodox Church in Alexandria headed by “Pope Theodore”) with the separation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Kyiv from the Russian Orthodox Church in September 2018, in exchange for the refusal of The Egyptian Orthodox Church, headed by Pope “Tawadros II”, acknowledged this separation that occurred between the Russian and Ukrainian churches, in the interest of the spirit of religious tolerance and the non-politicization of religious issues.
According to my understanding, this confusion of attitudes between the Greek Orthodox Church in Alexandria headed by Pope “Theodoros” and the main Egyptian Orthodox Church headed by Pope “Tawadros II” may have caused a state of intense controversy, until the Egyptian Orthodox Church affiliated with Pope Tawadros clarified the whole matter, and emphasizing (the difference between the Greek Orthodox Church in Alexandria, which is followed by several foreign communities that settled there, and the Egyptian Orthodox Church), which is the old main eastern church, which most Egyptian Christians follow.
What confirms the importance of the future role of the Egyptian Orthodox Church of Pope “Tawadros II”, Patriarch of Alexandria, regarding the religious conflict of political significance between “Russia and Ukraine”, which caused the separation of the Ukrainian Church from the Russian, which was likened in Ukraine as a “separation from followers of Satan”. Therefore, what sparked my most research and academic curiosity was what the Russian Orthodox Church announced at the end of December 2021, of its decision to (build its own cathedral in Egypt), and to issue an official church statement to that, confirming:
“The issue of allocating a plot of land in Cairo to build our cathedral there has been resolved, as the Russian Church wants to build its own cathedral in Egypt”
This news of the construction of a new Russian cathedral in Cairo was confirmed by the Patriarch of the African Episcopal “Leonid Klinsky”, who confirmed in an official statement on December 30, 2021, that “the transfer of the bishops of the Alexandrian Patriarchate to the Russian Orthodox Church is not excluded”.
The affirmation of the Patriarch of the African Episcopate, “Leonid Klinsky” as well, that:
“According to our estimates in the Orthodox Church, 102 clergymen from all over the African continent have submitted applications for admission to the Russian Orthodox Church, and there is a significant percentage of the total number of clergymen, some of whom have been waiting for this since 2019. We expect an increase in the number of applications, and the establishment of Churches of the Russian Orthodox Church in African countries shall be as needed”
Here, I am reminded of the controversy raised at the time, following (the Russian Church’s decision to sever relations with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa, Pope “Theodore II” after his recognition of the independent Ukrainian Church), which sparked a controversy at the time in Coptic circles in Egypt and deepened the religious dispute between Moscow and Kiev.
The Russian Church, in a statement published on its official website in the English language in December 2019, expressed its “strong anger at the decision of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa”, Pope “Theodoros II”, who entered into a partnership with the Ukrainian schismatics, i.e.: (the splinter Ukrainian Orthodox Church), declaring to stop mentioning the name of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and Africa (Pope Theodore II) during the liturgy.
Pope “Theodoros II”, in his capacity as the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa, announced during the Divine Liturgy that was held in November 2019 at the “Zahir Archangels” Church in Cairo, his recognition of “Epiphanius Metropolitan of Kyiv’s Bishop” as head of the Ukrainian Independent Church.
A strict assertion by the Russian Orthodox Church, according to my reading of all the circumstances surrounding these facts, that it had noticed that “Pope Theodore II’s decision was not presented at the session of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate in Alexandria, which was held from 7 to 9 October 2019, and was not taken into account”. It was put to a vote, and it was issued in an “unusual way”, stressing that it will close a representative office of the Patriarchate of Alexandria in Moscow and that all (Russian Orthodox dioceses in Africa are no longer under the supervision of the Egyptian Patriarchate, but under the direct leadership of the Russian Patriarch Kirill).
Therd’re not statements were issued regarding this matter from (the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Alexandria), and Anba “Nicolas Antonio”, Metropolitan of Gharbia and Tanta for the Greek Orthodox, and the official spokesman of the Church in Egypt refused to answer any questions in this regard when asked, citing that he was not authorized to comment or respond to this type of inquiries.
After the outbreak of that crisis that took place between (the followers of the Greek Orthodox Church against the background of the split of the Ukrainian Church and its separation from the Russian religious guardianship over it, which has been going on for 332 years), the Orthodox clergy held a wide assembly in Kyiv in October 2018, to take a (historic decision to establish an independent church). On behalf of the Russians, with the support of the (Patriarchate of Constantinople in Istanbul, Turkey), which is the seat of the global spiritual leader of about 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world.
The step of ecclesiastical secession in Ukraine from Russia and its recognition by the Church of Constantinople in Turkey provoked widespread Russian anger, after which the Russian Orthodox Church decided in October 2019 to (cut all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople), in protest of its approval of Ukraine’s request to establish independent church. The Russian Orthodox Church described it as “the biggest schism in Christianity in a thousand years”.
The Greek Orthodox Church in Egypt became (the second church to recognize the independent Ukrainian Church after the Church of Greece), which recognized it in November 2019, which also led the Russian Orthodox Church to announce the (severance of partnership relations with the head of the Greek Orthodox Church).
Noting that the conflict over Ukraine’s spiritual future stems from the deterioration of relations between Kyiv and Moscow after (Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014), as well as the outbreak of separatist fighting in eastern Ukraine that led to the deaths of more than ten thousand people.
Here, the Egyptian Orthodox Church entered the line of crisis between the two Russian Orthodox Churches and their Ukrainian counterpart, due to the similarity in name between (the Greek Orthodox and the Orthodox Rome), and the decision of the Russian Church aroused an uproar in some major media, because of (the similarity of the name of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria “Theodors II”, with the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope “Tawadros II”), which prompted the Egyptian Orthodox Church to issue a statement denying any relationship with him.
Therefore, an official statement came out from the spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt (Rev. Paul Halim), ensuring that:
“The relations with the Russian Orthodox Church are very good fraternal, and all that was circulated in the Western media regarding the Russian Church’s severing of its relations with the Orthodox Church in Egypt was denied”
The Egyptian Orthodox Church stressed in its statement that (the decision of the Russian Church to cut ties with the Coptic Orthodox Church and Pope “Tawadros II”, Pope of Alexandria, Patriarch of the See of “St. Mark” is unfounded), and that the decision issued by the Holy Synod of the Russian Church is specific to the Greek Orthodox Church.
In that previous ecclesiastical crisis referred to, a great confusion occurred between the two churches due to (the same name of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and its patriarch bear in the name of the Pope of Alexandria, and his name is similar to the name of Pope “Tawadros II”, who is Pope “Theodore II”, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa).
We find that the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church (did not get involved in the issue raised between the Orthodox Churches about the separation of the Church of Ukraine from Russia), stressing that it has good relations with the Russian Church, and visits are exchanged between them.
Here, it must be clarified that the Coptic Orthodox Church is the main Christian church in Egypt along with other Christian sects, noting that (the number of Copts in Egypt is about 15 million people, who make up about 15% of the Egyptian people), according to the previous statements by Pope “Tawadros II”, the head of the Egyptian church.
I consider the priests and monks of the Egyptian Orthodox Church that what is happening is a (political issue, not a religious issue), and we will find that the confusion here resulted from two things, namely:
- The first matter: is that the seat of the Greek Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox churches is located in Alexandria, and the name of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch “Theodoros II”, which means in Greek “Tawadros”, is similar to the name of the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church “Tawadros II”, which caused major media outlets in the trap.
- The second matter: We find here that the Egyptian Orthodox Church has nothing to do with the Russian Orthodox Church and is not a party to the conflict between the Greek Orthodox.
We can consider that the political crisis that has erupted since 2014 between Russia and Ukraine is behind the religious strife and the separation of the Ukrainian Church from its subordination to the Russian Church.
Many Ukrainian Christians are of the opinion that (the Russian Church prefers the Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine). The Russian Church in Moscow denied that it had fallen into the hands of the Russian government as a political tool, and said it was trying to bring peace to eastern Ukraine.
Regarding the repercussions of the decision to separate the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches from the decision to sever relations with the Greek Orthodox Pope in Egypt, we can conclude that the (Greek Orthodox in Egypt are a foreign community that historically settled in Egypt like other sects, and that the Greek Orthodox Patriarch in Alexandria is not a foreign national, nor it is appointed by the Egyptian authorities). Therefore, we can consider that: “the dispute between the churches and each other will, of course, not affect the relations between Moscow and Cairo”.
As for (my future vision) for the most prominent roles of the (Egyptian Orthodox Church) in resolving the crisis of the future religious conflict between Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, perhaps this can be done, as follows:
The strong rapprochement between the Egyptian and Russian Orthodox Churches allows Cairo to play a role in the future Ukrainian-Russian religious ecclesiastical crisis, with the relations between the two Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Churches headed by “Pope Tawadros II” and their Russian counterpart headed by “Pope Kirill” in Moscow are (witnessing closeness Intense). The Egyptian and Russian Orthodox Churches, until the moment of the Russian declaration of war against Ukraine, were in a state of exchange of visits and continuous meetings, and cooperation and rapprochement between them in an unprecedented manner. The cooperation between the Egyptian and Russian Orthodox Churches included several areas, including:
(Exchange of delegations and visits, monastic visits and meetings, academic and media cooperation, social service and development, as well as theological dialogues)
The Egyptian researcher here was able to monitor some important recent visits, which had a positive impact on the relationship between the Russian and Egyptian Orthodox churches, the most important of which, in my view, was the visit of a delegation from the Russian Orthodox Church to Egypt, with a large delegation that included prominent priests and priests belonging to the (Russian Theological Academy), from (6-13 May 2019), in addition to the important church meeting that took place between “Pope Tawadros II” and his Russian counterpart “Pope Kirill” in Moscow and the meeting of the Bilateral Dialogue Committee between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Coptic Church in Cairo (18-29 May 2019).
The importance and symbolism of the Egyptian Orthodox Church’s invitation to a prominent delegation from the (Russian Theological Academy), as an important Egyptian ecclesiastical step during the reign of his Holiness Pope “Tawadros II” for rapprochement with the Russian Orthodox churches, in the field of exchanging visits and academic cooperation between them, by extending an invitation to the (Theologian Academy in Moscow) to visit the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church during the period from (6-13 May 2019).
The symbolism of the Egyptian Orthodox Church’s invitation to the (Theological Academy in Moscow), as it is one of the oldest and most prestigious theological academies in the Russian Orthodox Church and around the world, and it supervises the rest of the four academies and theological colleges in the Russian Church, which are located in the cities of (Moscow – St. Petersburg – Kyiv – Minsk), and 33 theological colleges throughout the Russian Church. The (Theological Academy in Moscow) was founded in 1687 by the monks Sophronius and Yoaniki. It is currently chaired by the Archbishop.
The noteworthy note here is the continuity of relations between the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church for more than two centuries. There are (multiple visits by the Russian Orthodox priests to Egypt, Sinai, and the churches of the East), and there are many Russian books about the Egyptian Copts and the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt.
During the reign of His Holiness, Pope “Tawadros II”, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the St. Mark, the two historic visits of His Holiness to the Russian Orthodox Church came on (October 28 – November 4, 2014), and his second visit was from (23-25 May 2017). In recent years, there has been a significant rapprochement and growth in relations between the Egyptian and Russian Orthodox Churches.
The Egyptian researcher also focused a lot on the symbolism of the Egyptian Orthodox religious church calls to their Russian Orthodox and Ukrainian Orthodox counterparts, before the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war, coinciding with (the Egyptian Orthodox Church’s invitation to visit all Christians and priests of Coptic Orthodox churches around the world), with constant concern for receiving visitors in the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox churches with an (official and honorable reception by the priests of the Orthodox Churches in Egypt and the Christians Orthodox religious people).
The religious ecclesiastical and theological relations between the Egyptian and Russian Orthodox Churches also flourished during the reign of His Holiness “Pope Shenouda III”, in the context of exchanging visits on various religious occasions, as well as through the (theological dialogues that bring together all of the Coptic, Syriac and Armenian Orthodox Churches on the one hand and the Russian Orthodox Church on the other hand).
We note here, (the extent to which each of the men of the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches is connected to the sacred Christian religious monuments in Egypt). In addition to their constant keenness for many years to visit the most important landmarks of religious and archaeological tourism in Egypt, especially (tracing all stages and effects of documenting the Holy Family’s journey in Egypt). You will find many photos documenting their visits to the holy religious areas in Cairo, such as:
(Visiting the sacred Christian heritage and religious monuments in the Old Cairo region of Cairo, paying attention to the antiquities of the Coptic Museum and making a detailed tour of it, always being careful to organize special trips to visit the Egyptian Hanging Church, and visiting several churches, such as: Abu Serga Church, due to the presence of the ancient cave in which the family stayed Holy, St. Barbara Church, St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church, and others)
What remains striking to me is the intense interest and passion that the Egyptian researcher analyzed for several previous visits, by the men of the Orthodox Church in Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, and even their religious Orthodox Christian peoples in those countries, and their passion for learning about the (Egyptian Coptic melodies and even the Egyptian ancient Coptic language), and to identify the most prominent religious Christian monuments in Egypt, on top of which is the “The Path of the Holy Family’s Journey, the Coptic Museum, and the ancient churches and monasteries”. Therefore, I believe that (the future role of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church to mediate conflicts, crises, and the different viewpoints of other Orthodox churches around the world), and to contribute to resolving and dissolving differences between them, requires many tireless efforts to strengthen acquaintance between the two sides within the framework of what he called personally (the soft power of the Egyptian Orthodox Church).
Understanding the mentality of others is an important ecclesiastical gain, which, according to my understanding of the role of the Egyptian Orthodox Church in resolving conflicts, is to (exchange experiences, professors, and scholars with representatives of other churches, especially in our analysis in Russia, Ukraine, Turkey), and even to prepare for their conducted joint studies discussions of theses, research and scientific theses between (the Russian Theological Academy and the Seminary College in Abbasiya in Cairo). Provided that it is agreed to exchange visits and delegations between the Christian clergy in Egypt and their counterparts in the churches of Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, and to host them constantly in Egypt, to deepen the roots of cooperation with them.
In my personal opinion, setting up a dialogue table, bringing together the (representatives of the seminary in Egypt and the Institute of Coptic Studies with the delegation of the Russian Academy and in the presence of some members of the Committee on Relations between the two Churches, to determine aspects of cooperation between the educational institutions of the two churches) will be in the interest of the Egyptian role in the future. Here, the most prominent areas of cooperation between the Egyptian Orthodox Church and others, through:
(Exchange of professors and students visits, translation of publications, exchange of publications, teaching languages, educational missions, organizing conferences, arts fields, training in the art of ancient Egyptian iconography), provided that this is expressly formulated in a (body of recommendations to be submitted to the Committee on Relations between the Egyptian and Russian Orthodox Churches) to rely on the future Egyptian role through our Egyptian Church in solving and passing this test successfully)
We can consider that the (interest in the churches of Egypt with the Orthodox Christian clergy in the churches of Russia, Ukraine and Turkey are all factors that support the efforts of the Egyptian Orthodox Church in “unifying the Eastern Orthodox Christian peoples”), by inviting them in Egypt to give lectures at the “Seminary College”, and perhaps seeking for the exchange of specialists, professors and visiting researchers in (the Institute of Coptic Studies and the Department of Tunes at the Institute for specialists). This coincides with introducing them to the (departments of the Institute of Coptic Studies in Egypt, and then inviting them to inspect the huge library of the Institute), which contains a complete heritage and a comprehensive history of the Christian heritage in Egypt, and holding joint Egyptian exhibitions with them on Coptic art under the supervision of the “Art Department at the Institute of Egyptian Coptic Studies”, which including: (icons, mosaic works, textiles, stained glass works, pottery works), and others.
Based on my comprehensive observation and analysis of the features of rapprochement between the Egyptian and Russian Orthodox Churches, I personally believe that the work and coordination of “an initiative of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church and its priests to bring rapprochement again and bring the views closer between the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches primarily after the end of the current war, and even for the opening of branches of the Egyptian Orthodox churches in Russia, Ukraine and then Turkey for rapprochement with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in Istanbul”, to be preceded by several other initiatives, as I have aforementioned in my analysis, and to highlight several areas of joint cooperation between the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church and Pope “Tawadros II” with their counterparts in other churches, through Inviting priests, priests, and monks of the Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish Orthodox churches to give lectures and conduct various religious-theological activities and studies at the (Theological Seminary in Abbasiya region) at Cairo and the Egyptian Coptic and (Theological Studies Institutes).
And I believe that (giving the opportunity for a large number of Egyptian professors and scholars to rapprochement with their Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish counterparts, which will eventually facilitate a better understanding of the best approaches to playing a real future role in which the Egyptian Orthodox Church contributes to its historical role in uniting the Eastern Orthodox Christian peoples in the world), especially in light of the long-running disputes between the churches of Russia, Ukraine, and later Turkey, after recognizing the separation of the Ukrainian Church from the Russian Church in September 2018, which I encourage priests, priests and fathers of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church and Pope “Tawadros II”, because of his paramount historical and cultural importance for Egypt in the world, within the framework of what called it, that it constitutes one of (the soft power features of the Egyptian Church in front of the world).
Fostering Inclusivity: Spiritual Discovery in International Ethics and Diplomacy
The concept of inclusion and understanding is not a new-age phenomenon but an essential aspect of any discussion and dialogue that aims to unite diversified perspectives. In the international sphere, especially diplomacy, this inclusivity and understanding take a prime role in fostering meaningful conversations, leading to significant breakthroughs in relations.
Spirituality significantly influences diplomatic interactions. Intrinsically human, spirituality shapes our values, beliefs, and visions. In diplomacy, this force becomes influential as countries shape their national ethos influenced by dominant spiritual or religious sentiments. And the teachings of TheosU about inclusivity and multi-religious dialogues may lead to increased harmony.
Spirituality varies across cultures and nations, shaping unique patterns of thoughts and behaviors. Understanding these dynamics aids in comprehending international ethics and its application in diplomatic scenarios.
Here’s where we delve into the realm of spiritual diplomacy. This involves integrating an understanding of various religious sentiments into diplomatic practices.
Essential aspects of spiritual diplomacy involve fostering cross-cultural dialogue and creating relationships through mutual respect for religious beliefs.
As a proponent of spiritual diplomacy, one key goal is to maintain harmony amidst what is known as heterogeneity – keeping peace in the face of conflicting religious or spiritual views requires careful negotiation within ethical boundaries.
A good negotiator understands meeting ethical implications involves grasping unspoken norms that are part and parcel of societal standards formed by dominant religions.
Technology will play a big part in ethical considerations also. There are now online Bible lessons and lectures on religious scriptres. However, care must be taken to foster inclusivity and non-religious spirituality.
Mindfulness techniques can be your aids to provide balanced judgments while facilitating negotiations between contrasting faiths. Developing compassionate awareness helps you form an enlightened understanding essential for meaningful interfaith encounters.
Walking the tightrope between various faiths requires careful, respectful navigation to avoid discord or antagonism. Migration is a hot topic. And making a plan for inclusion for all regardless of nationality or religion is a worthy goal.
Understand the need to unpack biases posing as significant hurdles to foster unbiased dialogues while at the same time planting seeds of empathy over intolerance.
Understanding how different religious practices can affect daily political affairs is integral to handle international relations effectively. Promoting balance within global interactions infuses inclusivity into standard diplomatic routines ensuring valuable room for diverse perspectives.
Spirituality may not strike as a critical aspect when one thinks about diplomacy; however, it plays a crucial role in bridging gaps that ideological differences may bring. The aim of diplomacy is to further one’s goals.
With nations often defined by their unique spiritual and cultural ethos, failing to incorporate these valuable insights can run the risk of misinterpretation and conflicts.
Therefore, spiritual diplomacy emerges as a bridge that connects these different ideologies through a common route of mutual respect.
Inclusion starts with acknowledging diversity. Recognising that religious beliefs are deeply personal yet universally present in various forms provides individuals the strength to appreciate diversity. Religious diplomacy has come to the forefront in recent times.
While discussions can reinforce stereotypes or misunderstandings about other faiths, they also have the potential to be valuable tools in debunking these biases and promoting an inclusive environment where diverse religious outlooks can coexist.
Emphasising inclusivity goes hand-in-hand with ensuring equality across all faiths amidst diplomatic relations. It helps condition the diplomatic realm into more than merely a negotiation table but transforms it into an arena where sacred values are exchanged and appreciated.
This advocacy sets a precedent in international relations valuing human dignity over regional divisions.
Understanding one’s biases is the first step towards cultivating inclusive dialogues based on empathy rather than contention in today’s interconnected world.
Familiarising oneself with mindfulness techniques can aid diplomats in maintaining equanimity while navigating sensitive interfaith discussions. Inculcating compassion even beyond personal beliefs fosters an atmosphere of dialogue rooted in tolerance, leading towards prosperous international ties.
The initiative towards promoting inclusive spirituality is not free from obstacles. Culture resistance, societal prejudices, and stereotypes serve as formidable challenges to implementing inclusive spirituality in diplomacy.
These factors require persistent efforts to dismantle. It involves replacing age-old misconceptions with facts and maintaining open-mindedness for welcoming wisdom from all religious circles.
In conclusion, nurturing the harmony between spirituality, ethics, and diplomacy emerges as a potent tool in international relations. It attests to the power of collaboration and mutual respect in an increasingly diverse world.
By embracing this inclusive spiritual diplomacy, countries can create spaces for genuine dialogue and understanding among different faiths, encouraging peaceful collaborations and productive resolutions.
Congeniality Between Islam and Democracy
In the contemporary era, compatibility between Islam and democracy is one of the most recent and controversial debate. Diverse opinions are found but to effectively compare the congeniality between the two, one should first understand democracy and its features then compare this political system with Islamic governance. Democracy as a model of self-government can co-exist with Islam because they have principles like separation of powers, checks and balance, legitimacy, constitution, accountability and protection of human rights in common.
About half of the states today have democratic form of government. Starting as Athenian form of direct democracy in 15th century to today’s representative and liberal forms of democracy (indirect democracies), a number of states have gone through democratization. It has spread beyond Western Europe to Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, Latin America, (most) Asia and Africa. When Soviet Union collapsed, democracy trampled communism. The soviet allies, that practiced communism, adopted democracy as solution for modernity and freedom. Democracy also advanced to Middle East in the hopes of end of dictatorship, but there, it got rejected. It led to the idea that Islam can never be compatible with democracy. However, recent happenings in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt have raised this question once again. This leads to the assumption that democracy is static and cannot adopt other cultures, which is not true because we see evolution in west which embraced of democratic principles.
In theoretical application of Islam, Middle Eastern Countries do understand and appreciate democratic process and its meaning in their own unique way. Then why Muslims Countries have not been democratized? This leads to question of the compatibility between Islam and democracy. West believes that attachment of religious values to democratic government is contagious but there are a number of values common in Islam and democracy which make them compatible. For this reason first we should understand what is democracy and its features and then what similarities exist between Islam and Democracy.
According to President Abraham Lincoln, in his famed 1863 Gettysburg Address may have best-defined democracy as a “…government of the people, by the people, for the people…”.The core principle of democracy is self-rule. The basic features of democracy are separation of powers, checks and balances, existence of constitution, periodic elections and protection of fundamental rights.
There are a number of Muslim like Ahmad Moussalli and Muhammad Asad and Non-Muslim scholars who talk about compatibility of the two. They give importance to the principles of consultation, people’s will, transparency, and Accountability. For example, Robin Wright, a well-known American expert on the Middle East and the Muslim world writes: “neither Islam nor its culture is the major obstacle to political modernity”. John O. Voll and John L. Esposito, two bridge-builders between Islam and the West articulate: “The Islamic heritage, in fact, contains concepts that provide a foundation for contemporary Muslims to develop authentically Islamic programs of democracy.”
Below are the similarities between Islam and Democracy.
Constitutional Government: Like democracy, Islamic governance is fundamentally a “constitutional” government, in which the constitution reflects the agreement of the governed to govern according to a specified and agreed-upon framework of rights and duties. For Muslims, the constitution is based on the Qur’an and Sunnah. No authority, other than the governed, has the authority to repeal or amend such a constitution. As a result, Islamic administration cannot be despotic, hereditary, or militaristic in nature. Such a government structure is egalitarian in nature, and egalitarianism is one of Islam’s defining characteristics. It is also commonly agreed that the Islamic republic in Medina was founded on a constitutional foundation and a pluralistic framework that included non-Muslims.
Participatory: An Islamic political system is participative. The system is participatory from the establishment of the institutional structure of governance to its operation. It means that leadership and policies will be implemented with complete, gender-neutral participation of the governed through a popular electoral process. Muslims can use their ingenuity to institute and continuously enhance their systems, based on Islamic precepts and human experience to date. This participation feature is actually Islamic Shura (consultation).
Accountability: This is a necessary corollary to a democratic system. Within an Islamic system, leaders and those in positions of responsibility are held accountable to the people. According to the Islamic framework, all Muslims are answerable to Allah and his divine guidance. However, this is more in a theological sense. People are the focus of practical accountability. Thus, the Khulafa ar-Rashidoon were both Khalifat-ur-Rasool (representative of the Messenger) and Khalifat-ul- Muslimeen (representative of the Muslims)
Legitimacy: Just like in democracy, the people are allowed to select who to govern them i.e. give legitimacy to administer their affairs, in Islam, Jurists have the authority to approve any political decision made by the monarch and the power to protest to the ruler’s decision if it is contradictory to Shariah. As a result, the political elite required the legitimacy of legal professors. Thus, in the ancient past, we can observe how jurists and kings work together constantly. That close historical relationship between religious interpretations and the political arena explains why Islam attempts to establish norms and laws that govern not only the personal life of the believer but also the public domain.
Separation of powers: Islamic constitutions, like the one Iran uses, establish the executive and the legislature branches of government. Legislature functions under the sole supervision of the Imam and Muslim jurists of the Ummah in accordance with new legal provisions. This demonstrates that all three institutions of government are free to carry out their respective duties without outside intervention and practice effective decision making among them without victimization of any individual or organization.
Protection of fundamental rights: Islam and democracy are also compatible because both promote and protect fundamental rights of individuals. Islam, as a welfare state, stresses on provision of basic human rights (food, shelter, security) with equality, justice, freedom, self-determination for all. It also provides rights of private ownership. It creates laws and principles for assurance of these rights. Civil rights movements are permitted in both Islam and democracy hence ensuring that these rights are promoted in an effective and clear manner.
In conclusion, by comparing the basic values of democracy and Islam, it is evident that there is congeniality between the two. Understanding this compatibility can help Muslim states better grasp the purpose of democracy and work towards the welfare of their citizens. The common principles of separation of powers, checks and balances, legitimacy, constitution, accountability and protection of separation of human rights provide a foundation of a harmonious coexistence between Islam and democracy.
Shiites, not Jews, emerge as a touchstone of Saudi moderation
Saudi Arabia has removed anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli references from Islamic studies schoolbooks, according to an Israeli textbook watchdog.
The watchdog, the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), said the deletions were part of a broader textbook revision that also eliminated anti-Christian references and toned-down negative portrayals of infidels and polytheists.
Instead of explicitly referring to infidels and hypocrites, the revised textbooks asserted that on the Day of Judgement. Hell, “the home of painful punishment,” would be reserved for “deniers,” rejecting Mohammed’s prophecy. Deniers replaced the term infidel or hypocrite.
In its 203-page report, Impact-se further noted that problematic concepts of jihad and martyrdom were also deleted, while two newly released ‘Critical Thinking’ textbooks stressed notions of peace and tolerance.
The report acknowledged an improved approach to gender issues, including removing “a significant amount of homophobic content.“ Nevertheless, the textbooks maintained a traditional approach to gender, the report said.
However, the review suggested that progress was limited in altering attitudes towards Shiite and Sufi Muslims, considered heretics by Wahhabism, the austere ultra-conservative strand of Islam that was dominant in the kingdom until the rise in 2015 of King Salman, and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“Some problematic examples remain…in the approach to perceived heretical practices associated with the Shi‘a and Sufism,” the report said.
The report will likely be read against the backdrop of US efforts to persuade Saudi Arabia to follow the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco in formalising relations with Israel and the recent Chinese-mediated Saudi-Iranian agreement to restore ties broken off in 2016.
In contrast with the three Arab states that unconditionally established diplomatic relations with Israel in 2020, Saudi Arabia has made formal relations dependent on Israeli moves to solve its conflict with the Palestinians.
Israeli media reported that Bahrain had mediated a recent telephone conversation between Mr. Bin Salman, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.
Mr. Netanyahu has made diplomatic relations with the kingdom a priority. He has pressed Mr. Bin Salman to allow direct flights between Israel and Jeddah, the Saudi Red Sea gateway to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina, during next month’s annual pilgrimage. Without direct flights, Palestinian pilgrims have to transit through a third country to reach the kingdom.
Prospects for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are dim, with Mr. Netanyahu heading the most religiously ultra-conservative and nationalist government in Israeli history.
Israeli-Palestinian tensions have significantly increased since the government took office in December. Earlier this month, they led to five days of Israeli airstrikes against targets in Gaza and Palestinians firing rockets into Israel in response.
Complicating matters, Saudi Arabia wants the United States to offer the kingdom more binding security guarantees, grant it unrestricted access to US weaponry, and assist in developing a peaceful nuclear program as part of any agreement to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.
Long in the making, the revision of Saudi textbooks constitutes a gesture towards the United States and Israel.
However it is, first and foremost, designed to counter the ultra-conservative, supremacist, and intolerant religious concepts that have shaped the education system since the kingdom was founded.
The revisions are also crucial to Saudi Arabia’s efforts to diversify its oil export-dependent economy, prepare its youth for competition in the labour market, and project the one-time secretive kingdom that banned women from driving as an open, forward-looking 21st-century middle power.
Furthermore, the revisions bolster Saudi Arabia’s quest for religious soft power as the custodian of Islam’s holiest cities and a beacon of a socially liberal moderate Islam.
Getting Saudi Arabia revamping its textbooks has been a long, drawn-out process. The United States and others have pushed for changes since the September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington. Most of the perpetrators were Saudi nationals.
The more limited progress in redressing prejudiced attitudes towards Shiite and Sufi Muslims compared to Jews and Christians suggests the continued influence of ultra-conservative religious thought in Saudi Arabia despite Mr. Bin Salman’s social reforms.
It also puts into perspective the kingdom’s reluctance to anchor the reforms in religious as well as civil law, an approach propagated by Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s Indonesia-based largest and most moderate civil society movement.
On the plus side, Saudi Arabia’s revised textbooks no longer describe visitors to sacred figures’ tombs, a widespread Shiite practice, as “evil” and “cursed” by the Prophet Mohammed.
Nevertheless, textbooks still condemn such visits as innovations banned by Wahhabism. For example, one revised textbook implicitly described tomb visits to supplicate the deceased rather than God as a polytheistic practice to be punished in Hell.
“Students learn that polytheism is dangerous, as it is the ‘most heinous’ of sins. However, while the 2021 edition also taught that those who practice it will be punished with eternity in Hell, this was removed in 2022,” the report said.
At times, the Impact-se report conflated thinking among some Arab and Sunni Muslims with Islam in general, particularly regarding Shiite-majority Iran.
In one instance, the report noted that in the textbooks, “Islamic historical animus toward Persia is maintained through claims that the assassination of the second caliph was a Persian conspiracy.”
The animus is maintained by some Sunni Muslims rather than Muslims as such. It relates to the killing by an enslaved Persian of Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second of the first four 7th-century caliphs to succeed Prophet Mohamed.
On an optimistic note, the report concluded, “Saudi efforts to reform the curriculum reveal a reasonably consistent step-by-step approach…and one…hopes that the approach will be applied to the handful of problematic content remaining in some textbooks.”
The report did not say that tackling problematic attitudes towards Shiites and Sufis would constitute one indication of how far Saudi rulers are willing to venture in challenging ultra-conservative Muslim precepts.
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