Eberhard von Gemmingen SJ
Editorial to the German-language Program 2003
The world is turbulent by the tensions between religions and cultures. It is discussing "preventive war" against Iraq. The Arabian and Islamic world has more and more the impression that the "Western world" is only interested in mineral oil.
But many Muslims from Indonesia up to Morocco are even more afraid that the 'Western life stile' shall be pressed upon them, and that thereby their traditional order of life will be overthrown. That means in concrete term that e.g. women are allowed to show themselves scantily dressed in public, that a father loses the authority over his children, that the order of praying, fasting and alms giving is upset, that a Western liberalism comes where moral no longer exists.
How justified are such suspicions? And is the Western world allowed - taking the Muslim way of life into consideration - to give up its principles or to relativize them? For example the conviction, that marriage is a partnership between husband and wife, and that from a certain age children are allowed to be responsible for their lives?
No, the West must not give up any of its fundamental principles of freedom, justice and humanity, but it is not allowed to force
It is also known that in Arab countries almost no democracy exists. Also in Europe the process of democratization needed centuries - and it was distressing. Today the processes of modernization will happen faster because of the globalization. But changes in our way of life, family ethics, child education, religious norms and customs deeply intervene in the life of every individual human being. That is why they need particularly much time.
Still a word about the globalized economy. Probably all peoples of the world want to share in the 'big cake'. With the economic interconnection comes the cultural invasion of the West. The governments of Islamic states and the Arab world will time and again have to decide how much Western influence they want to admit in view of the economic interconnection. But the West has to take into account that its partners - because of their different cultural conceptions - face enormous challenges.
If the West will go on as insensible as in the last decades, then the 'Clash of Civilisation' will increase. It is remarkable indeed that at the moment all Arab states side with Saddam Hussein although they disapprove of him as person and of his regime. But if the 'family' is attacked from outside one takes the side of the unloved family member. I would like to call out to all Western politicians, 'If you only think of defence against terrorists, then you actually think much too short-sighted. You should rather wonder on which breeding-ground the terrorists have grown. Not only the Taliban, no, the cultures feel threatened and now strike back.
Perhaps our western leaders need coaching in religion and psychology.