More than 20 senior representatives from Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions and from the Hindu and Bahá'í communities from all over Europe met on July 12 in Brussels, under the motto “Intergenerational Solidarity: Setting the Parameters for Tomorrow's Society in Europe”.
This high-level meeting celebrated in the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations was called by José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and co-chaired by Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, and László Surján, Vice-President of the European Parliament representing President Martin Schulz.
In a frank and open spirit, the leaders discussed intergenerational solidarity and other important demographic challenges for Europe, like tackling unemployment, fostering active ageing, and reconciling work and private life. President Barroso encouraged religious leaders to engage in public dialogue and show the specific contributions that churches and religious communities can make to explain the need for solidarity.
José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, said: "To tackle the economic crisis, we are doing a lot to ensure the right balance between solidarity and responsibility among Member States. But we need to devote at least as much attention to solidarity and responsibility among the young and the old. Ultimately, we will only be able to come well out of this crisis and lay the foundations of a prosperous future, if we keep solidarity between people and generations at the heart of our actions. This is the glue that keeps our communities together. The churches and religious communities are well placed to build bridges in our societies."
Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council said: "We cannot afford, socially, economically and in the first instance, humanely, a 'lost generation' in Europe. Neither can we afford to have older people side-lined for 'lesser productivity'. The productivity of wisdom and knowledge is for sure not as measurable as the productivity of manufacturing consumer goods, but African wisdom reminds us that when an older man dies, a library disappears. Churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and their NGO's, schools and associations are bringing, at local level, persons together. They can, also therefore, play an important role in improving understanding and mutual learning between generations."
László Surján, Vice-President of the European Parliament, stated: "Intergenerational solidarity is an obligation in Judeo-Christian heritage and in other religions as well. Nowadays, it is not only a question of religion but intergenerational solidarity has strong financial implications too: today's debt can be seen as tomorrow's potential taxes. Debt reduction therefore is a matter of intergenerational justice."
During the meeting, participants agreed on the need to raise awareness of the huge societal challenges, to take up responsibilities in important areas like strengthening solidarity between young and old, and fighting discrimination, and to effectively contribute to the Commission's overall growth strategy for Europe, by striving for better education, less poverty, and a fairer society.
For more information, a transcription of the speeches and pictures, please click here.