There are many prejudices and misconceptions that overlook the major contribution of faith-based organisations to our societies, Mairead McGuinness MEP and first Vice-President of the European Parliament with responsibility for dialogue with representatives of religions and non-confessional organisations in the European Parliament, told the Dublin City Interfaith Forum held today (Tuesday) at Richmond Barracks, Inchicore, Dublin.
The MEP who will next week host a conference in Brussels bringing together young Muslims from the 28 EU Member States told today’s conference that the future of Europe should be a future where Islam has a very definite future too.
“Islam has today become part of the fabric of society in many European countries, including Ireland. As elected representatives, it is incumbent upon us to enter into dialogue with our Muslim communities about the values that underpin European society,” she said.
And she said each-and-every citizen should be able to live their life in freedom and safety, including religious freedom. “A person’s religious identity goes to the very core of who they are. Religious freedom also means freedom to express one’s faith in the public sphere, work and education.”
She said Ireland is one of the most free, open and tolerant countries in the world. “Sadly, this respect for human dignity and religious freedom is lacking in many places, and in many ways.”
“At the same time, as Ireland becomes more religiously diverse, we need more local-level projects across the country to help tackle any prejudices that might be there. We must tackle these through education, through communication; but also through working with groups and individuals susceptible to such ideas,” she said.
The MEP commended the work of the Dublin City Interfaith Forum which was today addressing the theme of ‘Culture, Faith, Cohesion: Moving from Tolerance to Inclusion’. “This kind of dialogue is what’s needed. It’s about recognising the reality of growing religious diversity in our community, but seeing this as an opportunity for mutual enrichment. This type of enrichment can only take place if we get to know and understand each other through local initiatives,” she said.