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Religion and Society


Card. Angelo Scola Patriarca di Venezia

1. A process under way



The theme chosen for the presentation of the review Oasis Al Waha Naklistan, promoted as the organ of the International Centre for Study and Research in Venice, can be fully elucidated only if situated in today's historical predicament, with all the complexity and conflictuality that go with it. I usually describe our present predicament in terms of the hybridisation of civilisations and cultures. Up to now this has seemed to me to be the most appropriate approach to interpreting the process I emphasise the word process that is under way, and the most suggestive in regard to pathways we can follow with a sympathetic but critical eye to it. I need only record the impressive datum that two billion people are on the point of migrating. There is plenty of historical backing for this formula of the hybridisation of civilisations and cultures; if used prudently in the terms for example of the Larousse French dictionary definition: "cultural production resulting from the mutual influence of civilisations in contact" it seems to me to be well suited to cast more light on the multiple complexity of the phenomena emerging from the unprecedented and inevitable interweaving of peoples, races, cultures, and religions which is forcing us not just to redefine the relationships between states but to think a new world order. At the same time I do not overlook the fact that we representatives of the religions are convinced that all peoples are ultimately part of a single human family, for they have in common an elemental experience (human nature?). We live in the certainty that there is a God who guides history.



To use the term hybridisation of civilisations and cultures to define the process under way in this era of travails, does moreover facilitate the task of interpreting the frequently searing content of the daily news, so that we can respond more adequately to today's increasingly complex problems in areas such as peace, war, terrorism, justice, freedom, rights, or democracies. It is of course important to add that by juxtaposing "civilisation" with "hybridisation" we protect ourselves from simplistic ethnic and anthropological misreadings.



2. Fundamental rights, democracies and religions



In the present context our reflections must focus on the social and civil articulation of this process of the hybridisation of civilisations, which involves religious men and communities being committed in the first person. One of the nodal points of the process of hybridisation is represented by the recognition or otherwise of the public value of religions.



According to scholars there is a conception in the United States - even though it may not be the prevalent one that generally allows the same fullness of recognition to the religious motivations of each citizen. The Founding Fathers themselves sought some kind of "secular state without state secularism"





. The political and religious spheres are clearly separate, but the political sphere is disposed to dialogue with the religious because it is very conscious that government cannot produce moral citizens, whereas moral citizens are often inspired by religions to favour democracy.



Thus for example the faith of the evangelicals - Methodists, Baptists, Pentecostals who are expanding fast beyond the United States in Latin America (Brazil), Asia, and Africa, and managing to make converts even in predominantly Muslim areas is closely interwoven with American culture. Whatever interpretation we want to make of these religious movements - which must certainly not be underestimated - they seem to me to confirm the claim that "There is an important lesson in American experience of religious diversity within a democratic political and social structure: the religious foundation of culture is broad enough to welcome those who try to live according to one of the three great Abrahamic traditions of faith [or at any rate to preserve] individual freedom of belief [or non-belief] and practice [or non-practice]"








In Europe however we find ourselves living together in a situation in which "globalisation emphasises a situation of cultural neutrality: for today's western democracy all religions are 'equal' (in-difference). The public sphere is declared to be neutral towards the religions
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