Sacred and Social/Political Freedom

Art Hotel, Knez Mihailova 27, Beograd

In 2013, we commemorate 1700 years since the Roman emperor Constantine the Great granted freedom to all citizens of the Roman Empire to profess, express and practice their faith in the so-called Edict of Milan. It has a special significance for the history of Christianity since it was the first time that Christians could publicly expressed and practice their religion throughout the Empire. It also marks the rise of Christianity and the beginning of “Christian Europe.” However, the process initiated by Constantine led to the prohibition of other religions in the Roman Empire by the end of the fourth century.

Conference Program

Instead of focusing on the historic context of the Edict of Milan and its influence on the subsequent history of Western civilization (the focus of many conferences and round tables in Serbia in 2013), the central aim of this conference is to explore the lessons of this historic event for the present. Our intention is to gather scholars, public figures and activists, as well as church representatives, to discuss the contemporary challenge of religious and minority rights and freedoms in light of this 1700-year-old document. Topics and questions that the conference should address include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The rights and freedoms of minorities.

How do Christians, and particularly Orthodox Christians, treat minority groups such as religious, ethnic/national, political and gender minorities in modern Serbia? What are the lessons from the Edict of Milan and the subsequent developments of the so-called “Christian times” (Middle Ages)?

  • Looking from the “center” and from the “margins.”

How do religious communities and social groups in general act when they are minorities, and how does their position change, toward important social and political problems, minority rights and other religious groups, when they attain majority status? And how is the behavior of the same Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Muslim communities towards the state and society affected by a sometimes majority, sometimes minority position, the reality encountered in the Balkans?

  • The responsibility of the media and educational institutions.

Is there room for more successful cooperation between the media, religious institutions and educational institutions in promoting the values of freedom and rights of all minority groups? What role can religious education play? Would it be possible to initiate more effective non-formal educational projects (in cooperation with the media) which could reach broader target groups, increasingly bringing people together across the region?

  •  Religious institutions – partners or servants to the powerful?

How can religion and religious institutions play a more constructive role in each society in Southern Europe? How can the instrumentalization of religion for the purposes of political aims be avoided?

  •  Southern Europe and Western Europe in the Age of Crisis.

What can be the hidden message of the Edict of Milan to the European community today? What can be learned from the history of Western Europe and the Enlightenment? What can Western Europe learn from the history of the Balkans and its long tradition of the multi-national and multi-religious environment ?
Chair, President of the Organizing Committee:

Dr. Davor Džalto
Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Belgrade
The Institute for the Study of Culture and Christianity

Keynote Speakers:

Dr. Ingeborg Gabriel
Head of the Institute of Social Ethics
Faculty of Catholic Theology, University of Vienna

Dr. Boris Gunjević
Matija Vlačić Ilirik Theological Faculty, Zagreb