Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Russian trip part II: About a shared vision

The next day, after we picked up Roel Kuiper from the hotel, we went to the place where the conference will start: the Orthodox center for Slavic languages. After the openings prayer of Father Nicholas, advisor for external affairs and the opening of Ekaterina, I was asked to give the opening lecture. The subject I chose was human dignity as base for the Christian Social thinking. I told about different views on dignity in history and talked about the catholic and Protestant view on Human Dignity and the universal declaration on human dignity recognizing that we are created in the image and likeness of God from the conception till the natural death as base for legal charters and legislation (even as base for the universal declaration for human rights) and motivate the participants to promote the principles also in Russia.

Although I thought that the lecture I gave might be long and somehow heavy in the morning, the reactions were enormous encouraging. Father Nicholai said that he was very encouraged about the things that have been said and that it was for him very good because it was also the direction the Russian orthodox church wanted to follow. "What you have said will have much more impact you will think and you will see the fruits" he added. Besides him someone said that he was encouraged that the Christian ideas I shared were so fitting with the Russian culture that this should be a base of a renewed friendship between Russia and Western Europe, because it is focused on ideas of the old Europe of some centuries ago, when these Christian values were the base of friendships amongst countries. Many people came to offer me books and the advisor of the chairman of the Senate of the Russian State Duma explained me that he would like to be in touch with me to look how these principles could be implemented in the Duma.

In the afternoon we went to the Russian State Duma where we met Father Nicholas, representatives of the 'United Russia' party and two representatives of the Parliament. The delegation from our side existed of senator Roel Kuiper (ChristianUnion, NL), Henk Jan van Schorthorst(Dutch Reformed Party (SGP), NL), Ekaterina and me. We had a good and constructive discussion about possibilities to promote values of human dignity in the State Duma and they were open for the idea to start a Human dignity group within the Russian Parliament. They were also interested in sharing information about how to deal with challenges of a multicultural society with different religions (relation between Muslims and Christians in some areas of Russia). A following up with the representatives of United Russia was planned to discuss concrete plans.

This meeting was followed by a lunch in the Parliament. After the lunch I had a meeting with another Member of Parliament who is member of the foreign affairs committee and member of the Parliamentarian Assembly of the Council of Europe. As a promoter for Christian values within this Council, we discussed about ways how Russia could play a role in protecting the traditional values in Europe. It was a constructive and good meeting.

Then we went back to the Orthodox Center for Slavic culture and languages where the conference was continuing in the mean time. It was good to see and speak with Alexander Ogorodnikov who is already an old friend of mine and we updated each other about our activities. He was a Russian dissident in Soviet times and was one of the founders of the Christian Democratic movement that existed in the 1990s. We talked as well about the fact that we already discussed for times about restarting such a movement, and that it seemed to be the moment now.

In the evening a nice dinner banquet was prepared for the most important guests. Many toasts were given. Roel Kuiper gave an inspiring toast and I gave the final toast about the importance to follow Jesus footsteps as Christian in the society where not power but impact is most important. It was interesting that although people came from different areas (mostly from Moscow and St Petersburg) and from different church background (protestant, orthodox), everyone found himself connected in this vision.

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