Portugal is a very important country … I have been to several other places. But Portugal has very important factors: in the Portuguese society, pluralism is a social construction which functions and that is relevant in any society, whether it be industrial or of any other kind. Secondly, there is a political wish to recognise the structures of faith and to give them an appropriate role in society. The third reason is that Portugal has an extraordinary history and the country understands pluralism. The majority of Portuguese history has been its involvement in pluralism over centuries; in your history there is an acceptance of difference. What we now want to do with Portugal is to reflect over issues, which we want to deal with in the future.
What brings us together is not only our historical similarities and our mutual respect for our past, but our wish to work together better to address the opportunities and the problems which will confront us in the decades ahead. Our respective histories have taught us to place our trust in human values and to root them in an ethical view of life.
Our histories have taught us the value of dialogue, and that rarely, indeed very rarely, does anything good come out of conflict. Our world view is to engage with the problem of social exclusion in our societies and to contribute to building bridges across faiths and across nations, by linking diverse parts of the world….
You have created here in Portugal a moral and Enabling Environment for faiths to live in equity and mutual respect. I intend to do all in my power to work with other faiths here and elsewhere, to give practical meaning and quantifiable outcomes to our future partnerships….
In global terms our numbers may be small, but our openness to addressing the issues of our time and of tomorrow, our willingness to bring mature judgement to our pluralist societies, are so strong, and so vigorously shared, that I believe the partnership we are founding today would enable us, with God’s support, to have a positive influence in the future which could far surpass the sizes of our demographies.
These are the reasons that have given birth to my conviction that this is truly an historic day.