“Day of Religious Freedom”

Bucharest, April 20th 2019

The President of the Scientific Council of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization (IASLCC), professor Emil Constantinescu, took part in an event organized at the “Brâncoveanu” Religious Centre (Sector 4, Bucharest) by Dr. Viorel Dima, Chairman of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church on Saturday the 20th of April 2019, on the occasion of the “Day of Religious Freedom”. The event brought together a number of representatives from various cults and promoters of religious freedom in Romania and abroad. In his speech, the president of the Scientific Council of the IASLCC shared some theological considerations on the Memory of Golgotha and the search for Christian values in a postmodern world. His underlying premise was the necessity for recourse to a set of core Christian values cleansed of the stain of millennia of Church abuse of power and adapted to the realities of contemporary society, as the foundation for a more applied societal dialogue to aid in overcoming the threat of utopian initiatives that aim to exclude religion from society or to dispossess it of its human function.

Emil Constantinescu used the “Meditation of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane” as a representative example of internalizing one’s religious conscience, with reference to the Biblical scene’s transposition into a painting exhibited in Budapest on the occasion of a van Gogh retrospective: “For the first time, I could linger overlong in front of the original painting of the Mount of Olives. I knew the story of the common attempt of three artist friends, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Émile Bernard, to represent the Biblical text. Unlike the works of the other two painters, Jesus is not portrayed in van Gogh’s piece. We only see the twisted trunks of the olive trees and a sky heavy with colour. For van Gogh, the physical presence of Jesus was unnecessary. Jesus lives on as long as we can feel His presence deep within. Which makes me think that any true change starts in our souls through accepting suffering, not merely by contemplating it.”

Another example given by the President of the Scientific Council of the IASLCC, of relevance with regard to the sciences and their capacity to contribute to develop a religious conscience and interfaith dialogue, focused on the historical profile of French scientist and politician Blaise Pascal who, on the basis of the theory of probability, outlined the existence of God through a delicate theological analysis, with his wager being that “we are incapable of knowing what there is, or whether there is anything at all. Reason cannot determine anything. If you are to win (by accepting the existence of God), then you win everything; should you lose, you lose nothing!”. Professor Constantinescu stated that “it is a well-known fact that, after Pascal’s death, one of his servants accidentally discovered a handwritten note in the lining of his coat, which described the state of mystical ecstasy he had gone through during what he termed the night of fire. For almost eight years, he had permanently bore this text, dated to November 23rd 1654 (midnight on St. Clement’s Day), on his person. In it, Pascal confessed that the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, Jacob and Jesus Christ, not the God of the philosophers and scientists, appeared to him as holy fire. The words that reflected his spiritual state at that moment were: “certainty”, “love”, “joy”, “peace”.

These are the virtues and the principles that religions must apply, beyond their doctrinal differences. The primacy of love should be ensured through any acts based on faith. Religious freedom has real applicability and functionality in a context in which confessions and human beings dedicate their own mission to love and not to hate, to understanding and not to division. Understanding religion can only be achieved through peace with oneself and with the Other. And mankind is more and more in need of this understanding and of eliminating the estrangement that is becoming more and more visible across postmodern societies.”

Other notable speakers at the event included Mario Brito, Chairman of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Europe, Dr Aurel Vainer, President of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania, Dragoș Mușat, President of the “Conscience and Freedom” National Association for Defending Religious Freedom, Virgil Achihai, President of the Christian Gospel Cult, Professor Otniel Bunaciu of the Faculty of Baptist Theology at the University of Bucharest, Georgel Pârlitu, President of the Muntenia branch of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, alongside other cultic representatives and specialists in religious communication.

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