IRI Holds Conference on the Influence of Parties in Europe and Muslim Countries

The International Republican Institute (IRI) hosted more than 20 senior political leaders from 15 European, Middle Eastern, North African and North American countries at the roundtable conference, Christian Democracy: The Parties, Their Influence in Europe and Relevance for Parties in Muslim Countries.  The conference was held in Istanbul, Turkey, June 22-24.  The purpose of the conference was to examine the parallel between the Christian Democratic political parties of Europe and an emerging Muslim Democratic political movement in the Middle East and North Africa.

During the conference, participants discussed similarities and common values that form the foundation of Christian Democratic and Muslim Democratic political programs, and sketched an agenda for future cooperation among the parties.

“Christian Democracy is a political term, not a confessional term,” said Wilfried Martens, President of the European People’s Party and former Prime Minister of Belgium.  “But many of the parties were originally confessional parties and they became laicized only after World War II,” Martens reminded the group, highlighting the once close ties of the parties to the churches and how they evolved over time into pragmatic, centrist parties, independent of religious leadership and institutions.

The event offered the opportunity to raise awareness among European political leadership of parties and political dynamics in several Muslim countries of the Mediterranean region.

“The discussion is extremely important,” said Radwan Masmoudi, President of the U.S.-based Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, “because many of the leaders from the Muslim countries are not familiar with this history [of Christian Democracy].”

Supported in part by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the IRI roundtable featured other speakers including, Cyril Svoboda, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic; Jüri Adams – former Minister of Justice, Pro Patria Party, Estonia; Saban Disli, Member of Parliament and Deputy Chairman of the Justice and Development Party, Turkey; Marwan Faouri, Secretary General, Islamic Center Party, Jordan; Jos van Gennip, Member of the Senate, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands; Stathis Kalyvas, Professor of Political Science, Yale University; Jan Olbrycht, Member of European Parliament, Civic Platform, Poland; Bilal Tlaidi, Member of the National Council of the Justice and Development Party, Morocco; Mohamed El Sammak, Secretary General of the Christian-Muslim Committee for Dialogue, Lebanon.

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