Speech of the President of the Republic, H.E. Mr. Alfred Moisiu,

delivered at the International Conference

»Religions and Civilizations in the New Millennium«

Tirana, November 14,2003

Distinguished friends and guests,

Distinguished politicians, academicians, and representatives of religious communities,

Distinguished Mr. Kadare,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Nowadays, when the whole world and human society is in many ways heading towards globalization, one of the challenges that states and people face, is the preservation and cultivation of their own values and national identity. We are all in favor of integration; we wish to become part of the European family, establish relations of close cooperation with numerous countries of the world. This remains our objective for it is in the interest of our country and our citizens. However, in this historical process, so desirable and inevitable, every country is introduced with its identity and its values, thus jointly creating a rich mosaic of values and cultures that acknowledge, respect and enrich one another.

Today, I wish to present a palpable and historic reality: a good example of harmony, tolerance and religious coexistence in Albania. This model constitutes a positive aspect of the Albanian society, a model that is able to teach everyone to practice tolerance. The past political regimes, the isolation, or the abolishment of religion nor the multi-dimensional opening up of the country have not affected this reality. On the contrary, it has not only remained staid, but it has strengthened and developed into a precious value, identifying the Albanian society and family.

Wedding ceremonies, family joys or moments of grief are times to come together. Unlike many other countries, in Albania it is almost impossible to find out the religious affiliation of someone if based on his name or family name only. Moreover in some areas, famous for their good faith; it has been a custom, even at times when religion was officially forbidden, to give their children names of another religion or to have inter-religious marriages. These occurrences and ties were not formal, but totally natural and were passed on generation to generation. Eventually, they are transformed into a tradition and normality, just as Vaso Pasho would write in the onset of the 20th century: »The Religion of the Albanian is Albanianhood«.

The religious communities in our country and in the entire Albanian world, as you can scarcely find elsewhere, have never experienced disharmony, on the contrary, they have managed to cultivate and develop a culture and faith in God, which enables them to live in harmony and coexist with one another. All people are equal in God's eyes and God is the one and the same for everyone: for Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics. Everyone is free and rightful to choose his own faith. In times of religious or national festivities, we notice admiringly that leaders of the religious communities call on each other and address each other common messages of good will, peace and fraternity.

I would like to recall the celebrated fact that all Albanians, Muslims as well as Christians were delighted at the historical visit of His Holiness Pope John Paul II in Albania. Likewise all Albanians rejoiced together at the historical event of Mother Teresa's beatification. Representatives of all religious communities attended the festive ceremonies in the Vatican. All mourned her death, bid her the warmest welcome on her visits to the land of her forefathers and felt proud of the fact that this illustrious humanist woman was an Albanian; she belongs to the Albanians as much as she does to the entire humanity.

Mother Teresa lived and worked in India, a country of several religions, but she proved to be a mother for all, because she was bequeathed with the Albanian culture of tolerance and religious harmony. Learning from her work, life and love for everyone, regardless of nationality or religious affiliation, we Albanians, her compatriots and successors have established an excellent model of social harmony, which is not affected by the faith or religious affiliation of our citizens. Today we have this opportunity to highlight one more time this precious treasure of the Albanian society, which we wish to share with other nations. This is the reason that urged me to unfalteringly take the initiative for the present conference and to ward its progress.

The most elevated feature of this climate of harmony is the fact that it is strengthened and enhanced day by day, that it progressively appears more conspicuous and enriched in every aspect. The most recent instance is »The Prayer Breakfast Initiative«. A group of MPs of different political forces, of different religious backgrounds, organized »The First Prayer Breakfast« in Durrės, with distinguished American, German and Balkan politicians as attendees. Two weeks earlier we assembled in Ohrid and Pogradec with President Trajkovski, Prime Ministers of Norway, Kosovo, Serbs of Bosnia and numerous politicians from Europe to share a word of prayer together.

The theme of this conference is crucially important to us, Albanians, to the region where we live and beyond. The recollections of tragic conflicts, as evident result of the absence of a tradition of dialogue and tolerance, of understanding between different religions and peoples, are still fresh in our minds.

The good news is that they are slowly becoming history. Ever increasingly, the culture of dialogue, coexistence, and understanding between countries, peoples, ethnic or religious communities is breathing more and more freely. Respect for the citizens, for their integrity is consolidating; protection of human rights and freedoms has become the leitmotiv of the new democratic life we are building. This is where the real strength of a society lies, the powerful source for hope in its future. It is exactly these democratic values, as well as the euro-Atlantic spirit that brings together and unites all Albanians and their religious communities.

Honored attendees,

The real value of inter-religious sympathy that we offer constitutes an extraordinary asset for understanding among present day cultures and civilizations. Religions and a part of civilizations must increasingly grow into a culture of bringing people together. They ought to convey the message of peace, understanding and progress.

The values of freedom and democracy are progressively becoming prevalent in approaching and strengthening the ties between religions and civilizations. Founded on these universal values, the Western Community helped liberate Kosovo, though predominantly Muslim. Likewise, we unwaveringly joined the world coalition against international terrorism. We consider the engagement in the coalition as our contribution to world peace and security. I am confident that with a free Iraq, despite part of the current ups and downs reconstructing vicissitudes, the world security has improved; the citizens of Iraq and the region will be much safer, - whereas international terrorism has suffered significant blows.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Life does not bring good news only. In politics and in different stages of social evolution, it often happens that we come across impediments and difficulties that hinder our advance. The duty and responsibility of politics, of the state, intellectual elite and religious communities is to constantly improve themselves for the good of our country and our citizens.

Referring to the theme we are discussing today, I would state that values are not given for all times. All of us should preserve these values as authentic wealth, not only intellectually and ideally, but also through further improvement of the legal frame, which guarantees the acknowledgement and respects the status of every community; which accepts and disseminates their best values, that no only edify the soul of every believer, but moulds a code of demeanor and attitude for all citizens. All actors of our society, political or religious, institutional or legal, academic or intellectual, national or regional, should exert efforts to promote the existence of harmony, understanding and coexistence with faith in God, regardless of the religious affiliations. This precious value is not something we want to possess exclusively, on the contrary, it is a message we want to convey to others, in order to enable its grandeur and nobility become a part of the tradition and normality of others, who suffer its absence or its deficiency.

In conclusion, I would like state that it is our duty and responsibility to make the culture of dialogue and understanding, which is slowly, but increasingly gaining ground in our region, an irreversible trend - a good example for the rest of the world. In this vein, I would like to propose the holding of a Summit of the Heads of State of our region devoted to the promotion of interreligious dialogue - so vitally important for the cause of peace and progress of our countries and peoples.

I thank you most cordially for your presence and wish the conference full success!!