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Greece maintains strong historical ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the other Greek Orthodox Patriarchates, and the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches, and supports their initiatives on issues related to the interreligious and intercultural dialogue, the protection of religious freedom, the protection of the environment, and the religious heritage. It also maintains strong ties with the Holy Monastery of the Mount Sinai (Saint Catherine’s Monastery), the oldest Christian monastery, with unique spiritual and cultural treasures, a sacred place revered by Christians, Muslims and Jews.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs follows the activities of the World Council of Churches, the relations between the Orthodox Churches, as well as the relation of the Orthodox Church with other Christian Churches to which it maintains a close communication. In the context of religious diplomacy, Greece supports and promotes international initiatives and interfaith contacts of its Christian, Muslim and Jewish institutions.
The dialogue among the Orthodox Churches and the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, convened from 16 to 27 June 2016 at the premises of the Orthodox Academy of Crete, have been followed with great interest by Orthodox Christians, Christians worldwide and people from around the globe. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had established a Special Committee of the Holy and Great Council for public sector coordination to support the organization.
The dialogue between the Orthodox Church and other Christian Churches and Confessions, in addition to its importance for the Church itself, has led to cooperation for the promotion of human values and the protection of the environment.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs attaches particular importance to the interreligious dialogue, which promotes respect for the rights of religious communities, enhances understanding between religions and holds, alone or as an essential aspect of intercultural dialogue, an important position in international relations. It is an issue of high priority in the agenda of international organizations. In this context, Greece is promoting the relative activity of the Greek Orthodox Churches.
During the current crisis in the Middle East region, where the ancient Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem and Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai have been established, Greece follows the developments and expresses its strong interest for the protection of the local Christian communities, the Christian shrines and Monuments.
In this context an International Conference on the religious and cultural pluralism and peaceful coexistence in the Middle East was organized in Athens in October 2015 on the initiative of the Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias. Patriarchs of the Orthodox Church, Primates of Christian Churches, religious leaders and high representatives of the major world religions, and prominent personalities of international politics, academic communities and civil society participated and intervened.
The 2nd International Conference on the religious and cultural pluralism and peaceful coexistence in the Middle East will take place in Athens on 29-31 October 2017. The Conference is aiming to overview main features and developments of religious pluralism in the Middle East in the last two years. It will also focus on the future challenges religious pluralism will face in the region and propose positive initiatives that promote religious co-existence and pluralism.
In this respect, the Conference could examine proposals for the adoption of a set of principles for promoting religious co-existence, tolerance and pluralism, on the role of religious communities and leaders in the reception and integration of refugees and IDPs in the Middle East and on the use of modern communication technology, particularly of media of social networking, as a key factor in promoting religious pluralism and mutual respect.
Mount Athos is the most important monastic center, one of the holiest places for the Orthodox world, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Promotion of the monastic community as a major cultural heritage center and the relations of the Holy Community with the Greek State constitute high priorities of ecclesiastical diplomacy. In this context the supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Civil Governor of Mount Athos, in accordance with the provisions of Article 105 of the Constitution, should also be mentioned.
Finally, there is constant cooperation with the Church of Greece on issues related to international activities, ecclesiastical diplomacy, and the promotion of religious tourism in Greece.
The participants in the International Conference on “Religious and Cultural Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence in the Middle East” (Athens, 18-20/10/2015) highlighted the need to remain vigilant and exchanged ideas on a Greek proposal for the establishment of a follow up mechanism in Athens. This mechanism in the form of the Centre for Religious Pluralism in the Middle East (established in January 2016) examines the situation, in terms of freedom of religion or belief and cultural pluralism, codifies the various problems and elaborates concrete proposals and viable solutions. This is implemented by (a) researching and reporting, mainly, on the non-Muslim communities in the Middle East; (b) knowledge diffusion via the official website that updates the developments regarding the religious communities; (c) establishing a dialogue forum. The goal is not to create a denunciatory discourse by highlighting the religious right violations; instead, CRPME aims to draw a historically evolving map of the social, economic and cultural developments of the various religious communities in the Middle East and the Mediterranean.