The starting point of our conference was today’s social and religious context of the European world, a context marked by the complex challenges of the migration phenomenon. The various answers formulated by the Europeans to the asylum requests made by the political and economical refugees are worth being analysed not only from the perspective of the founding values of the European Union – solidarity, subsidiarity, human rights, freedom, democracy etc. – but also in the light of the history of religions and civilizations where we can find open solutions to social tensions similar to those with which we are being confronted today.
The aim of this conference was to analyse the value and place of hospitality within the human and religious consciousness of mankind, mainly by re-visiting fundamental texts and traditions belonging to the Greek-Roman, Hebrew, Christian and Muslim civilizations.
We were looking for answers to the numerous questions which hospitality poses nowadays. From among these we could mention: within the present day civilized world, facing complex phenomena such as migration, poverty, violence and terrorism, how can hospitality be seen – limited or unlimited? Which should be the spirit of hospitality? Which values form the basis of hospitality? How can hospitality be lived in urban areas? Which is the place of hospitality in a social context marked by aggressive marketing and technocracy? Do public services retain anything from the religious spirit of hospitality? Could religion and faith motivate and strengthen attitudes of solidarity among people?
Selected papers presented in English during the conference will be published as soon as possible by Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, Washington D.C. Here I could anticipate some conclusions: Religious hospitality should be equally beautiful and generous at a social and at a religious level. Unfortunately, this is not the case, because there is not tradition of inter-religious hospitality, at least not in the Christian world. There are certain exceptions. During the latest centuries, the Abrahamic religions have attempted to develop the notion of tolerance, but tolerance means to bear an error, and in this respect tolerance has nothing to do with hospitality. In the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas established which should be the limits of hospitality towards foreigners. With Aquinas, the general principle is this: “no nation is excluded from the law which refers to the cult one owes to God and from the redemption of one’s soul”. In practice, the stranger should be received as if he were a brother, and yet we should not forget that he is not a real brother. Excessive generosity could lead to a distorted relationship between the guest and his host. Hospitality is a two-way road: to be just, hospitality expects the two partners to make equal efforts. Then, to be good host of guest, we should make the difference between the active and the passive sense of hospitality. These two senses are complementary. The active hospitality, which is offered to someone, is generous and little obliged; the passive hospitality, which is received by someone, is humiliating and unexpected. Active hospitality is the foundation of morality. Received hospitality is a memorable experience that deeply marks human life. For rich individuals and nations, hospitality offered to those strangers who seek safety and vital resources is a moral obligation. From a religious point of view, active or passive hospitality is the result of ecumenical or inter-religious dialogues. If the immigrants are Christians, hospitality isn’t a question of doctrine, but of practical ecumenism. When the immigrants are not Christians, hospitality means dialogue and concrete help to preserve the transcendental dimension of their lives.
- 4 aprilie 2017
- Dancă Wilhelm
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