The Role of Contemporary Christian Practices in Maintaining the Sustainable Social Development

Report on the results of “The Role of Contemporary Christian Practices in Maintaining the Sustainable Social Development” workshop held at the 11th Rhodes Forum on October 5, 2013

The workshop took account of the experience of the three International Public Athonite Conferences, which were held in Salzburg (2011), Weimar (2012) and Belgrade (2013). The workshop participants stressed that the ongoing erosion of moral values in contemporary European civilization could be alleviated, if Christian (Orthodox) ways of confronting the challenges of modernity would be implemented more consistently by the faithful. Contemporary Christian (Orthodox, and in particular Athonite) approaches to problems presented with regard to ecology, social organization and social development, as these approaches are based on Christianity's spiritual and cultural values and traditions, present a promising option for a world-wide community of persons who wish to safeguard sustainable social development. It is important for Orthodox clergy and  public representatives, for Orthodox scholars, researchers and all people of good will, who are united by interest, love, and respect for the Holy Mountain, to draw attention to the successful strategies of co-existence and cooperative labor offered by the Athonite monks: On the Holy Mountain, people from different countries and cultures share the principles of common values, mutual assistance, fair dealings among the many diverse monasteries, sketes and kellia. As result of the workshop, a project was devised which seeks to establish a constantly operating public conference, dedicated to the discussions of issues concerned with the Holy Mount Athos.

Based on 5 presentations, about 20 participants of the workshop from various countries touched upon such topics as: Christian way of life as a working model of social coexistence in contemporary society; the cultivation of ascetic traditions even under conditions of modernity: the history and the responses to the existing challenges; and the holistic approach to the world and the human being based on the example of the spiritual experiences and practices of the Holy Mount Athos. The moderator was Prof. Sergey S. Horujy.

The first part of the workshop included the lecture "The Future of Orthodoxy" by Professor Dr. Fellow of Royal Society of Canada, University of Ottawa Dimitri Kitsikis (Greece), followed by presentations "Problems of Social Sustainability: How can contemporary Christians help?" by Editor of Christian Bioethics - non-ecumenical Studies in Medical Morality Corinna Delkeskamp-Hayes (Germany); "Facing Today's Challenges: Monastic Values and the Modern World" by Director of Institute of Historical Research / National Hellenic Research Foundation Kriton Chryssochoidis (Greece); and “The Most Holy Mother of God as the ideal of human apotheosis and as the ideal of ascetic hermit in the works of representatives of Athonite hesychastic spirituality of the 14th century (St. Gregory Palamas, St. Philotheos Kokkinos, St. Theophanes of Nicaea)” by Professor of the Department of General Humanities, The Urals State Mussorgsky Conservatoire Dmitry Makarov (Russia). The report of the head of the Diocesan Office, Berlin Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) fr. Mikhail Rahr (Germany) was presented in written form and will be published in the workshop proceedings papers at the web-site of the International Public Athonite Conference along with all the presentations mentioned above.

In the second part of the workshop the participants dealt with the results of the three Athonite Conferences, held consequently in Salzburg (2011), Weimar (2012) and Belgrade (2013) concerning Orthodox (and in particular Athonite) approaches to the ecological challenges. A major task concerned reflections about a projected series of Athonite Ecology Lectures. Another subject of discussion was an initiative seeking to establish a constantly operating international conference dedicated to the issues concerned with the Holy Mount Athos.

The participants first discussed the necessary improvements of the 2013 Belgrade Conference's final document. This discussion was moderated by Prof. Spyridon V. Bazinas. Under his guidance all participants agreed on a final document.

Further discussions concerned a publishing project devoted to bringing the more important presentations delivered at the previous Athonite conferences to the notice of a wider pubic. Here questions of content, strategy, and organization among possible Editorial Board members were considered. It was agreed that additional texts on Mount Athos from further invited researchers should be included. It was recommended that all the key speakers of the workshop should be included in the Scientific Commission of the Editorial Board, in order to foster the development of such a Publishing Project.

Next, the character and time frame for the “Athonite Ecology Lectures” were discussed. These lectures are to be delivered in various public and educational institutions. There was general agreement on the fact that these lectures should primarily emphasize the hesychastic approach of Orthodox monasticism as a key to a solidly Christian contribution to today's problems with the preservation of nature. It was decided that the participants of the workshop will present the World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations” Organizing Committee with a list of possible lecturers and themes for these lectures. As a draft proposal it was suggested to consider Emeritus professor of the Aristoteles’ University of Thessaloniki Georgios Mantzaridis and a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch as the first lecturers of the “Athonite Ecology Lecture”.

In conclusion of the workshop, Marco Merlini (Italy), Member of the Scientific Committee – Responsible for the International Relations of the Association “Together for Athos” – ONLUS reported about the initiative to convene in Ouranoupolis (Greece) on May 27-th, 2014 the 1-st Convention of the Holy Mount Athos Friends Associations worldwide and suggested the workshop participants to address the World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations” to convene the next International Athonite Conference jointly with this event.