We undersigned religious leaders, representing the three Abrahamic monotheistic religions in Finland, herewith offer The Helsinki Declaration as our contribution to the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008.
Finland has long traditions of encounter between East and West and of a peaceful co-existence between different cultures and religions. Especially during the last decades, we have gained experience of inter-religious dialogue on various levels, from the grass-roots to regular meetings between religious leaders and the President of the Republic.
As religious leaders, we want to stress the importance of the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue in today’s increasingly multicultural and multi-faith Europe. We hope that this Helsinki Declaration can serve a source of inspiration for people, churches and religious communities, civil society, and authorities on all levels to engage in inter-religious dialogue.
1. Prerequisites for and aims of a successful dialogue
A true and an open dialogue does not try to convert or convince the other party, but presumes a willingness to listen to and learn from one another. For us dialogue is born from mutual respect, openness and trust, and it leads to several discoveries – of one another, of ourselves, and of the sacred and the truth that the participants all seek to serve in their own religions.
The aim of inter-religious dialogue is to promote mutual understanding, acceptance, and tolerance between people in a spirit of openness, trust, and respect, thereby fostering social cohesion and peaceful co-existence.
2. Respect and Tolerance
We want to stress the importance of mutual tolerance and respect for one another, including respect for what is considered sacred by others. The aim of dialogue is not to become similar, but to foster mutual understanding and tolerance, acknowledging that we are, and will remain, different from our dialogue partners.
Freedom of religion must be respected, and intolerance and religious discrimination combated. Respect for religious beliefs is also important when discussing freedom of expression.
3. Identity and education
Dialogue presumes full integrity in our own religious identity and conviction including knowledge of both our own religious traditions and those of others. In this respect, religious education, including high-quality religion classes in schools, and high-quality education and training of teachers of religion are essential.
Deep insight of one’s own religion combined with good knowledge of other traditions promotes open-mindedness and prepares the citizens of today’s multi-cultural and multi-faith for an open dialogue and cooperation in the local community and the broader society.
4. Religion in the public sphere
We wish to emphasize the role of religion as a positive and peace-building force in society, and the positive character of freedom of religion, maintaining that religion does have an important role to play in public life and a place in the public sphere.
The third millennium invites us to move into a new era of respect for a variety of convictions, from “freedom from religion” to “freedom for religion”. We are challenged to recognize the common spiritual and humane values of our three Abrahamic monotheistic religions that have shaped the great European and Middle-Eastern civilizations, whose heirs and members we all are.
Helsinki, October 28, in the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008
Archbishop of Turku and Finland
The Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland
Chairman of the Finnish Ecumenical Council
Archbishop of Karelia and all Finland
The Orthodox Church of Finland
Father Teemu Sippo SCJ
Administrator of the Diocese Catholic Church in Finland
President of the Board of Jewish Communities in Finland
Chairman of the Finnish Tatar Islamic Community
Chairman of the Finnish Islamic Council