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04/12/2014 | Diplomacy and religion -When foreign policy was closer to heaven, and hell

The Economist Staff

IF YOU only skim-read the headlines of last weekend's newspapers, you might have got the impression that Pope Francis made a remarkable breakthrough in inter-religious relations in Turkey last week, by praying with his Muslim hosts in a mosque and jointly celebrating a communion service with the senior bishop of the Orthodox Christian church. In fact, it was nothing like that simple.

 

When visiting a mosque, the pope took a moment to offer his own silent supplications, whose content was strictly his own business; but the visit was carefully arranged to avoid coinciding with a Muslim prayer-time to which he would have had to react in some way. And at the Orthodox Patriarchate, he was treated as an honoured guest, and memorably asked the Orthodox Patriarch to bless him; but he did not join in consecrating bread and wine—the most solemn moment of the service—because unresolved doctrinal differences make such a thing impossible. When they make the effort, religious leaders can, in other words, be dab hands at diplomacy. They know how to choreograph events in ways that respect each other's integrity without causing offence. What about the other way round? How much do diplomats know about religion?

In years past, being religiously literate was part of a general education, and diplomats were well-educated people. This is apparent when you study the minutes of the Lausanne conference of 1922-23, at which Turkey's new leaders, flush with military victory, made peace with the world. That era is on my mind because I am a guest of a foundation in Berlin which studies forced migration in the aftermath of both world wars. One of the hottest issues in Lausanne was whether the Orthodox Christian Patriarchate should be allowed to remain in the city where it had been established 16 centuries earlier. Turkey initially said no: but Lord Curzon, as British foreign secretary and chairman of the conference, thunderously insisted that the ancient office must stay put: otherwise "a shock would be delivered to the conscience of the entire civilised world".

Liaising closely with the Archbishop of Canterbury, he said the office's removal would horrify Christians everywhere. The secular governments of France and the United States agreed, not quite so forcefully. An Italian diplomat who was closely involved with the negotiations seemed to favour the Patriarchate's expulsion; he was suspected by the British of being in cahoots with a Vatican plan to remove the Patriarchate and increase Roman influence over the region's Christians. In the end, a compromise was reached, allowing the Patriarchate to remain but in a strictly spiritual role; it would no longer administer the affairs of local Christians. And that is why, by the skin of its teeth, the ancient office survived and was ready and waiting to greet the Pope in 2014.

The interplay of religion and diplomacy hasn't always been a happy story. The Crimean War was sparked by a Franco-Russian squabble over access to the holy sites of Bethlehem. And nobody would want to go back to the era when Western nations acted as proxies for the religious institutions with which they were closely, if informally, linked. But given that religion hasn't gone away, diplomats and other practitioners of foreign policy do have to know the basics of religious history. Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, still recalls with horror the reaction he received when he lobbied the Labour government on behalf of the Christians of Iraq; his interlocutors had no idea that such people existed, or that their presence in the region predated Islam. That wouldn't have happened in Lord Curzon's time.

The Economist (Reino Unido)

 



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16/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
22/08/2008|
22/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
24/05/2008|
24/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
29/04/2008|
11/02/2008|
05/01/2008|
09/12/2007|
18/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/09/2007|
26/08/2007|
25/08/2007|
11/07/2007|
16/06/2007|
16/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
24/04/2007|
24/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
28/02/2007|
28/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
17/11/2006|
30/09/2006|
28/07/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
06/03/2006|
21/02/2006|
17/02/2006|
31/01/2006|
10/01/2006|
28/12/2005|
31/10/2005|
26/09/2005|
29/08/2005|
11/08/2005|
08/08/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|

ver + notas
 
Center for the Study of the Presidency
Freedom House