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ST JOSEPH’S SPIRITUAL RETREAT CENTRE
September 3 – September 7
NATIONALISM – SOURCE OF CONFLICTS AND THREAT TO PEACE
The aim of this paper is to present an overview of the recent CCADD International Conference held in Slovenia at St Joseph’s Retreat House Celje Slovenia from September 3 until September 7 2004.
To open this process up to discussion the Paper’s Scope will include a review of the Programme, a Résumé of Delegates, comment on the Background to some of the Papers, comment on the external visits and reflection upon the overall mood and effectiveness of the Conference and notes on administration and future developments.
The Programme and Papers
The Programme was identified as challenging and of current Christian, political and international interest to all who attended and to the Christian community in general.
The subject of Nationalism and Conflict was in general sensitively handled and benefited from the CCADD approach to, ‘speaking the truth’ in a spirit of conciliation and acceptance of another’s experience and perceptions.
This was especially pertinent and valued in a geographical region where conflict and pain are still inextricably linked in the lives’ of so many individuals and neighbouring communities and new nation states.
Session One was presented by the former Archbishop of Belgrade. This was a studied and diplomatic acknowledgement of the destructive power of both religion and nationalism. Diplomatic considerations were acknowledged and the Archbishop’s Paper was not for general circulation. He still works and speaks on Slovenian TV and in popular discussion in the region, his position as a mediator is a very sensitive one.
Session Two was a rather more provocative presentation by Dr Drago Ocvirk, from the Ljubljana University Faculty of Theology. It challenged the group to face the stark realities of history and demanded responses to historical perceptions that to be a Slovenian meant in many ways to be a Catholic – or indeed the need to be of any faith to be a full member of a nation. To move on from that for many is difficult but to move on they must. This presentation stimulated much debate that placed the material in context.
Richard Lee then followed up with an overview of the English establishment, its history and development and the threads of erastianism within all European Churches. This was an insight into terminology rather than a definitive statement upon the development of the Church of England and churches in England.
Session Three CCADD was challenged by a characteristically powerful presentation by the Rev’d Donald Reeve – expounding his demanding and sometimes heartbreaking work of Christian reconciliation in ‘post conflict’ Bosnia. Perhaps, best summed up in terms of a ‘caring Christ’ in the face of human inertia and bewilderment. This was supported by Teodora Kosturkova’s contribution.
Sessions Four and Five were a high point of debate wherein the place of a protestant attitude to the State was explored in a most professional manner by Dr Andy Murray with his exposition of the modernist Calvinistic attitude to church state relationships. Dr Peter Moree a Dutch Protestant living in the Czech republic and a member of the Faculty of Prague University presented a paper on Religion, Identity and Conflict in central Europe – which he explored the destructive role of “cultural myth” and its role in intensifying national identity at the cost of engendering a culture of xenophobic sensitivity. This session was most valuable as these papers could be viewed alongside the rather more intense presentations by The Rev’d Peran Boskovic on Orthodoxy and nationalism and by Dr Milan Jazbec of the Slovenian Ministry of Religions’ on understanding on the question of Region Religion and Nationalism and conflict in the Balkans.
Session Six saw Brian Wicker emerge as the quiet Englishman who politely and with care and a very delicate touch threw stones into the calm discussion to produce waves of valuable debate. A new CCADD phrase emerged –‘Wickerism’. Using Newman’s argument of an essential core concept or doctrine that cannot be contradicted by its later developments he attempted to demand a restraint on the growth and direction of International law only being written by the powerful and endorsed by military victory.
Session Seven introduced Kees Homan’s paper on how to make the UN Security Council more effective threw up the usual question about the make up of the Security Council. The debate or none debate on one EU seat and the surrender of the British and French seats. The debate founders on the detail, every nation declares an interest in the need to have a proactive and representative Security Council just until their own representation is threatened or there is a possibility that their nation may be the subject of its revitalised interest!
Sessions 8 – 9 – 10 were delivered by masters of their trade. USA Ambassador Anthony Quainton delivered a paper that asked all the pertinent questions about the possibilities of a just peace after a war of any intensity. Pierce Cordon gave an up beat presentation on the on going and positive work of the Nuclear arms Control, Tony Kempster discussed the title of ‘Peace’ in the Peace Movement in terms of proactivity and action and James Noble opened a door on the role of non-proliferation controls in Russia.
Résumé of Delegates
Delegations from Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Slovenia, UK and the USA all contributed to the Conference. Notable losses to the international team were, France, Germany and given its proximity Italy.
Reflections were made on the need to attract ever broadening representation. The requirement perhaps to present in languages other than English and the requirement for accurate translation was discussed.
The requirement for an early agreement on a site for next year’s Conference and its timing was reiterated. This would enable CCADD members to take the initiative in encouraging delegates to attend at a very early stage in their diary planning.
Provisionally next year’s Conference will be in the Netherlands and Karel Blei will confirm timings and location.
Sunday saw 4 remarkable visits.
1. Lokev Military Museum
2. Parish Church of Lokev – Sincere and moving time of reflection
3. Caves of Skocjanske Jame – What is man that thou should be mindful of him
4. Churches in Lljubljana
Dr (Fr) Bogdan Dolenc had obviously worked tirelessly to make this Slovenian CCADD a success. He assured all delegates of a warm welcome, comfortable accommodation and a full and stimulating programme.
He ensured that there was a constant spirit of ecumenical sharing Christian witness and academic honesty and rigour.
The absence of a Muslim or an Orthodox speaker was contextually understandable – but nevertheless a loss.
Slovenia was welcoming and quite an astounding Country. New to the EU and NATO/PfP transition yet outwardly wealthy and developing rapidly. Yet being sustained a tiny domestic population of only 2 million. New roads, buildings, cars and a sense of urban youthfulness and vitality.
Money had obviously been spent on the national infrastructure for many years to establish such a thriving economy. There is perhaps an ambivalent attitude toward the two former imperial legacy states of Austria and Italy. One ‘poetic’ reflection was made, that with the full introduction of the Euro it was now possible to ride from Ljubljana to Trieste and on to Madrid and back to Vienna and spend the same ‘coin’ as it had been in the days of the Holy Roman Empire.
CCADD struggled yet concluded that to divorce religion from nationalism was historically impossible, culturally naïve and politically dangerous and yet to ‘marry’ them too close together was equally dangerous! As in all things, when dealing with States and ideologies, ethical vigilance, moral courage and open discourse, based on mutual understanding and respect was the better path for Christians committed to involvement in the market place of ideas and the concepts that undergird defence and the politics of defence. CCADD International embedded this approach in its Conference with just the hint of anxiety that it may just be crying aloud in a wilderness of growing extremism.
Revd. Richard Lee