A New Narrative on Europe

 Declaration ILRS Conference, 29 September 2018, Utrecht

Statement of the ILRS-conference, 27-29 September 2018, Utrecht, The Netherlands

A NEW NARRATIVE ON EUROPE

We, as social democrats and democratic, religious socialists propose a new narrative on Europe focussed on social issues and the needs of ordinary people.

As of today, the debate on the future of the European Union is dominated by the conservative ideals of Europe as constituted by economic cooperation in favour of a stronger internal market on the one side and the populist rhetoric of loss of sovereignty and dictates from Brussels undermining local political power on the other. Because of this, debate on Europe, European cooperation and European politics is now simplified as a choice between the current technocracy of Brussels and the internal market on the one hand and the cheap tales about bringing the power back home by leaving the European union or at least prune back its responsibilities in favour of member states on the other. 

We as religious socialists believe that politics should not be technocracy. We believe socialism to be a value based movement and we strive for a policy that is about hope, connectedness, social justice and solidarity.

We see a world rapidly changing. After the last presidential election in the United States, after Brexit, after the hardening of dictatorship in Russia and growing political turmoil along European borders, and with basic human rights and the rule of law under duress in several European countries, the geopolitical considerations to be taken into account have changed dramatically.

We see the devastating results of Climate Change all over the world. We know the images of drought and flooding form the Third World, but after the unregular high temperatures of the last decade, Europe now is  having a taste of them as well. We know that we have a solemn responsibility towards people everywhere in the world and next generations to preserve our planet, nourish our natural resources and make the transition towards sustainable energy and a clean economy. But as of today, the emission of carbon dioxide is still at the same level as it was in the 1990s, while we know we need a strong reduction.  

We see the devastating consequences of global economic inequality, conflict, unfreedom and war. As of today, more people then ever have left their homes and their countries to seek refuge. We know we have a humanitarian duty towards them, as the look for safety and opportunity. But as of today, families are stuck in the mud in Greece and Italy, children are drowning in the Mediterranean and people have to live in dehumanizing circumstances in Refugee Camps in the Middle East.

We see the anxiety and fear for the future in our countries, where the rights of working people and fair and just economic policies have been immolated on the altar of neoliberal economic policies. People are feeling left alone in a harsh world in which the strong are becoming stronger, the wealthy are becoming wealthier while the uncertainty of common people has not been addressed at a sufficient level. Debates about the future of our welfare state are continuously about economic considerations instead of about human dignity and the rights, opportunities and safety of all members of our society. After the devastating economic crisis, ordinary families have payed more then their fair share, whilst multinational cooperation’s and the financial sector again are looking for ways to undermine rules and regulations and evade taxes.

We, as religious socialists, discussing European politics at our triennial congress in Utrecht, believe that we need a new narrative on Europe. We need to talk about the ways European political cooperation can work for our families, in granting protection from the sometimes harsh economic climate in a globalizing world. We need to discuss new European social policies, that give every single member of our society the opportunity to live their lives with their heads held high, free from want and fear. We need to reassess our policies on climate change and have to further discuss how to build a stronger economy for all without ruining our planet for generations to come. Wee need to reconnect with our humanity when addressing the problems we face with irregular migration and have to find an answer to the so-called refugee-crisis that is in line with our values. We cannot accept people to be stuck in camps or drowning at see and at the same time make statements about Europe as a community of values. We refuse the discrimination on birthplace and ask for a discussion about the European boarder regime.

In order to come up with such a narrative, we as religious socialists look back to the early foundations of European cooperation. After the horrors of the First and Second World War and the biggest economic crisis ever seen, the political leaders of Europe got together to find ways to prevent such horrors for generations to come. We have a solemn responsibility to honour that inheritance by once again formulating a positive outlook on Europe that is inclusive and makes use of the common understanding of love that is in all world religions.

We are in need of a new political ethic, a new narrative on why European political cooperation is needed to ensure social security, to build a green economy for all and to find a solution for the humanitarian crisis that is the day to day reality of refugees all over our planet.

As social democrats and democratic socialists of Europe, we should firmly defend the necessity of European cooperation against those who claim that we are better of on ourselves. And we should maybe even more firmly defend the necessity of European cooperation against those who believe it to be in the best interest of our economy alone, driving down the rights of workers and hollowing out our welfare state. Europe, as a social and democratic union of states, is not just an economic technocracy nor is it an impediment factor in building a better world for all. It is a political necessity facing the challenges.

Therefore, the International League of Religious Socialist urges social democratic and socialist parties all over Europe to strongly speak up against those who are destroying the European project, to have the courage to speak up against those who try to divide us. We stress for a new political narrative that rests upon the key values of social democracy: solidarity, kindness, inclusion and dignity for all.

It is time to mobilise the religious left!

ILRS statement to the SI Congress in Cape Town 2012

It is time to mobilise the religious left!

Over the last decades religions have been returning to the political arena. Aggressive religious right-wing movements and religious conservatism get a lot of media attention and they are far away from Social Democratic ideals and practice of solidarity and social justice. But we need to stress, there are many religious people in all traditions that are fed up with terror and xenophobia in the name of religion, and who are very keen to work for a Social Democratic vision, in their own societies, in their own ways.

ILRS wants to reach out to the many religious people who are convinced that their religious traditions teach them respect for all one’s neighbours, all over the globe. All socialists should open themselves to see the political implications of religious language about generosity, forgiveness, grace, that both men and women are created equal, solidarity and that each the human beings are responsible for God’s creation.

The religious right has not been enough challenged by progressive religious people when it comes to issues that they label “religious”, such as women’s reproductive health etc. But as progressive people of faith we intend to widen the discussion to include also distribution of wealth, solidarity, equality and sustainability.

Progressive people of faith can contribute in many ways to the political work of the SI family. ILRS urges the SI to recognize the importance of mobilising progressive people of faith. Making room for dialogue and practical work inside the parties for people of different faiths will provide a tool, and an arena, for understanding and tolerance. It will serve the party and provide an example for society as a whole.

Today progressive people of faith often feel homeless. Some religious leaders speak up for conservative and reactionary ideas. Too often socialist parties are not addressing only the ideas in question, but tend to criticise religion as a whole. An anti-religious fundamentalism is often the norm. As a result religious people with progressive opinions feel alienated from the parties that stand for their own values. In an era when religion is coming back to the global political arena, this causes a loss of political momentum for social justice and for Socialist Democratic values.  ILRS are convinced that SI parties could expand their outreach significantly by mobilising the religious left.

Migration and increasing interaction between people of different faiths underlines the necessity to respect differences on a daily basis, and to respect the type of meaning provided by religions. The parties of the SI family should not leave people of faith to the conservative right wing fundamentalists. It is not religions that cause tensions in society, but social inequality and the increasing gap between rich and poor. There are progressive people in all religions who can be strong allies in our struggle for justice. We have to open up ourselves for new alliances, and provide progressive people of faith with an alternative that respects religion and supports justice, equality and sustainability. This is one way how the SI family may return to the frontlines of building a world where the well being of human beings and of nature are not costs or assets in a calculation, but what life and politics is all about.

The ILRS urges the SI family to

Reform the SI family to make it more inclusive of new progressive movements like youth in the Arab spring, and religious socialists. And acknowledge that religion can be a source of energy for solidarity, equality and sustainability.

– Start meetings between national religious leaders and national political leaders addressing social issues of contemporary concern.

– Start meetings locally between trade union leaders, worker’s leaders and religious people to learn to know each other and to start creating a common image of a society in which we all can live.

– Make democratic socialism again defend progressive change, and not so much defend victories in the past.

 

 

 

Cecilia Dalman Eek, President of ILRS

Inter-religious councils can be a support for democratic change after the Arab spring

ILRS, International Leauge of Religious Socialists, held in june 15-17 2012 its Congress in Stockholm. The Congress adopted this Statement on the Arab spring.

Statement on the Arab spring
The Arab spring started in Tunisia, and it triggered a democratic earthquake throughout the Arab world, which has affected the entire Euro-Mediterranean area. Arab dictators and their protectors among the Western elites were threatened and some even terrified when the Arab peoples showed their determination to live in free and democratic countries.

Tunisia and Egypt have already conducted free and democratic elections, and new assemblies have been formed. However, the road to democracy is not straight and many obstacles lay ahead. The formation of democratic parties and spreading of a culture of democracy among men and women, among young and old, and among both the elite and the ordinary human being is a long process. The former elites are reluctant to let go of their economic privileges and their disproportional influence. Substantial political change comes from those who want real change for social justice, those who have something to gain from thorough change. Minor reshuffling of a few powerful individuals is not enough.

Religion can be a source of inspiration for true change and it can foster an urge to treat every human as equal. Religions often include components of charity and of sharing so that no individual may come to harm or starve. Religions may also motivate struggle for social justice and the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa was led by among many Bishop Desmond Tutu. But we also know that Apartheid was inspired by Christian theologians. We may draw the conclusion that Christians and people of other faiths may use their religions to legitimate both social justice and social inequality.

As religious people we declare our conviction that men and women, and human beings of all creeds and traditions are equal in front of God in a fundamental way, and that no political or religious leaders is entitled to disregard this equality. This equality has political ramifications that will contribute to liberate the human being and promote democracy and social justice.

The ILRS congress in Stockholm June 2012 call upon political leaders and religious leaders in the Arab spring countries to:

• Establish working and confident cooperation between religious leaders of different religious traditions in the Arab spring countries. Such inter-religious councils may provide a confidence that will make religious leaders cooperate and act wisely in case of social crises.
• Initiate regular meetings between religious and political leaders in the Arab spring countries, in order to enhance mutual understanding and respect.
• To commit yourselves to work for the success of the democratic process which should bring about social justice and dignity for each and everyone and constitutions that guarantees these rights.

We urge political leaders in all ILRS member countries to:
• Support processes towards democracy in the Arab spring countries with non-violent means, and to facilitate interaction between civil society – including religions and political organisations – in the ILRS countries and in the Arab spring countries.

ILRS Congress
Stockholm, Sweden 2012-06-17

ILRS

ILRS – associated member of the Socialist International

Our organisation was founded during the 1920s, and for most of our history has been a European organisation. However, in
recent years, the ILRS has greatly expanded its membership and contacts to Africa, Asia,  North and South America and
we currently represent over 200,000 socialists of different faiths in the world’s  socialist, social democratic, and labour parties.

We believe that aside from dealing with the issues of
globalisation, marginalisation, and human rights, that we have a responsibility to fight against religious fundamentalism as well as the use of religion as a tool of political conservatism.

The ILRS believes that as people of diverse faiths are
created equal before their Creator, we must fight for
tolerance of religious diversity, and social and economic equality throughout the world. We must fight to elminate
poverty and reverse the widening social, cultural, and
economic gap between peoples.

As an associate member of the Socialist International, the ILRS seeks to work within the member parties of the Socialist International, to achieve our common political goals.