STRASBOURG (Armenpress)–Ren? van der Linden, the President of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, speaking at the European Ecumenical Assembly in Sibiu, Romania, called for a binding international treaty to protect religious heritage–churches, mosques, synagogues and other sites of spiritual significance– in times of both war and peace.
Addressing more than two thousand delegates, Van der Linden said: "The wanton destruction of religious sites causes deep emotional wounds, sharpening hatred, fuelling conflict and obstructing the search for peace. I now intend to initiate work in PACE for an international instrument to prevent such outrages from occurring again in the future."
Van der Linden made the promotion of intercultural and inter-religious dialogue a major theme of his three-year Presidency, inviting Patriarch Bartholomew, Patriarch Alexis and Pope Benedict to address Europe’s parliamentarians.
Underlining the importance of the European Ecumenical Assembly, which brings together Christian leaders from across Europe, the President stressed the "vital, vibrant role" of religion and religious organizations in society:
"Through their profound respect for individual human dignity, they are indispensable to advancing peace and justice in the world. I believe that politicians must recognize this and strengthen the role of churches and religious organizations in society."
He went on to recall the importance of the Council of Europe’s "soft power", including PACE’s parliamentary diplomacy and the occasion for dialogue provided by its various monitoring procedures.