"Finding Common Ground is a Collective Responsibility"

In the face of the minaret ban, CPCE General Secretary Michael Bünker argues for the full societal participation of Islam.

In the aftermath of the ban on building minarets, which was approved by the Swiss electorate Sunday, Bishop Michael Bünker, General Secretary of the CPCE, encourages Protestant churches in Europe to continue and renew their efforts towards a full societal participation of Islam. “We must contribute to a better understanding and increased acceptance of Islam and its expressions of life,” states Bünker. This also means that Islamic communities of faith in Europe must participate in societal life in a more open and transparent manner. Says Bünker: “Finding common ground is the shared responsibility of all who are involved.”

According to Bünker, a country’s public space must reflect the pluralisation of its society. Bünker: “Protestant churches will take a stand against religious life being pushed into the realm of the private.” According to the Protestant understanding of religious freedom, religious symbols are allowed to draw public attention to themselves as long as they conform to the basic values of the respective society. In the opinion of the Protestant churches in Europe, Islam, which as a religion has founded its own civilization and culture, has the right to establish and maintain a public presence of its form of worship. “It should go without saying that this also includes building minarets,” states Bünker. Rev. Thomas Wipf, president of the CPCE, adds: “With this in mind, the Protestant churches in Switzerland have publicly and explicitly campaigned against this initiative.”

With the “Charta Oecumenica,” signed in 2001, the churches in Europe have committed to “work together with Muslims on matters of common concern.” Furthermore, the Charta emphasises that religious communities must be permitted to practice their religion publicly. The CPCE calls on its 105 churches in 29 countries to recall this self-commitment and to act accordingly.

Vienna/Berne, 1st December 2009

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At present 105 Protestant churches in Europe (including five South-American churches originating from Europe ) belong to the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE). Lutheran, Reformed, United and Methodist along with pre-Reformation churches such as Hussites and Czech Brethren grant each other pulpit and table fellowship on the basis of the Leuenberg Agreement of 1973. The Secretariat is housed in the Severin-Schreiber-Gasse 3, A-1180 Vienna, office@leuenberg.eu, tel. +43.1.4791523.900, fax .110 The CPCE press officer is Dipl.theol. Thomas Flügge (Bern), tel. +41.31.3702502, t.fluegge@leuenberg.eu.

Photo: epdÖ/Uschmann

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