Ismail Serageldin


Serageldin speech for meeting with President of Italy


 Serageldin speech for meeting with President of Italy

Quirinale palace – 28 01 2016



Mr. President


Ladies and gentlemen


It is a great honor for me personally and as co-Chair of the BoT of the Nizaami Ganjavi International Center (NGIC) to stand before you here on this important occasion.  The world is in the throes of a profound transformation.  Our Mediterranean sea – the Mare Nostrum of the ancient Romans – is the scene of the worst barbarism of wars in failed states, and of the spillover effects of this massive murder and mayhem as millions of people flee their devastated homelands to seek asylum in Europe. 


The sea has not always been kind to these refugees…wanting no more than a chance for a decent life, they too frequently lost their own life, the ultimate price that any human can pay, despite their innocence of the chaotic wars that are destroying their homelands.  Their arrival on European shores poses new and different challenges for them as well as for the receiving European nations.  Humanitarian and security considerations are frequently pulling in different directions.   The desire to maintain the open borders of the Schengen agreement confront justified fears that unchecked aliens – with a few terrorists in their midst – could be coming into our nation unimpeded.  The numbers of people who pose a risk to society may be very small in that tide of fleeing refugees, but it does not take many persons to launch terrorist attacks that have devastating impact on society.


Understandably, that puts enormous strain on the receiving countries in Europe, and the fear mongers and peddlers of hate are becoming important over the political landscape of Europe.  But equally, the failed states of the Middle East are seeing their societies torn apart largely along sectarian lines.


Yet religion, whether Islam, Christianity or Judaism, teaches openness to the other, assistance to the needy and the embrace of our common humanity.  Religious leaders of all three religions and their many subdivisions must play a role in reinforcing that call by the better angels of our nature, that reawakening of our conscience, and by reminding us of past lessons of our history, so that societies can interact better in these times of crisis.  Religious leaders must interact to stop the polarization that is increasing in all our societies.  The calls for inter-faith dialogues are multiplying.  But is that productive? Is that enough?


Beyond the religious leaders stand the governments and their responsibilities vis-à-vis their citizens as well as their humanitarian obligations.  How do we strike a balance between the role of religion and the role of the secular state so that their actions are mutually reinforcing?  Our societies, especially in Europe, must keep humane measures in place in dealing with the hapless refugees.  But they must also reinforce security without jeopardizing the fundamental freedoms that democracy guarantees all citizens.  These are complex challenges, and many lives depend on our ability to find effective solutions.  In our coming deliberation we shall devote ourselves to the search for that elusive balance.


Thus I thank you once again for hosting this important and most timely event, and we hope that the discussions in these meetings will help shed some light on these vital questions. 


Thank you.



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