Fr. Roberto Imperio, Président de la Confédération des GLEM


The expectations of peace and progress which had been generated by the Arab spring, “the magnificent and progressive future” that many were hoping would open up for the populations of the Arab world who were involved, have rapidly dissolved under the reactionary pressure which has helped the most fundamentalist factions to take control of the respective countries, with methods that are often violent and do not respect the most elementary human rights. The reaction to the opening towards a western model, which the Arab Spring seemed to suggest, has brought about the creation of one of the most ferocious and dangerous political and military movements of the last decades: the newly self-proclaimed Islamic state of the ISIS.

What hasn’t worked in the Arab Spring?
What responsibilities can be ascribed to the cultural, historical, political and religious characteristics of the Arab world, and what, on the other hand are to be ascribed to the political stance of the West?
Are the events due more to the intrinsic way of being of the Muslim world, which finds a greater stability of the governments in authoritarian government systems supported by a religious fundamentalism, or is it a reaction, a kind of self protection and defence against the interference of Western countries?

Is it really possible to export Democracy, as it has been attempted many times?
We will not refer only to the cases in which a military type intervention has been decisive, and has brought about the overthrow of the totalitarian regimes in some countries (Iraq and Libya to mention the most recent cases), for which the West intervened in favour of one faction, bringing it to power, even if we have had to realize that the new political situation was not based at all on a solid consent or was it shared by the majority of the population.
Instead, we want to refer more in general with the export of the western cultural model, rather that the political or economic one (which in any case depend from the first), carried out through the means of mass communication, through which often values and principles, in contradiction to the local ones, are transferred, and which take hold, in particular on the younger part of the population (which can exercise a great pressure of opinion on governments, even to the point of changing them, but which doesn’t have control of the sources of real power and cannot consolidate the changes).
The culture of a people is the result of centuries of history and social evolution. The western model may fascinate many young Muslims for the freedom, the affluence, open mindedness that it shows within it, but which is detached from the historic/cultural reality of those countries; therefore it is in any case doomed to be felt as a foreign body by that part of the population that effectively controls the country.

An aspect that merits to be examined in detail is the bond that still exists, in the Muslim world, between political and religious power, versus that in the western world. It seems that the concepts of laity, of civil Law and Government, cannot find a space in those countries. It seems that every new movement, every new political initiative, finds its internal bonds, it motivation, in the memory of religious rules, often felt in an anti-western way (Jihad or Holy war against the infidels). But can the religious movement be considered a sufficiently real movement, or, more often an image behind which political and economic interests often hide?
Think of the ISIS phenomenon. How much of its creation and development is due to the influence of the great poverty and the lack of a future, that the political and economic crisis of the region has created, rather than a real need to defend the Islamic faith from the attacks of the infidel? We are more inclined to consider the call to Islam as the common banner under which to exercise the will for redemption and liberation from an extremely precarious situation which is rampant in the middle-eastern regions and in the North African ones. If this were so, rather that of religious clashes and ideological incommunicability, we should speak about problems of human dignity, to be solved in economic terms with the reconstruction of the productive structure of the region, so as to guarantee a different perspective to the population which is not composed only of hunger and violence.
An implicit proof of this hypothesis can come from the fact that fundamentalist fury is hurled also against their own countrymen, if they are from an ethnic group that is different from the dominant one, or if they are from a different Islamic sect (Sunni against Shiite). In this perspective, it seems that we are in front of a fight based more on predominance and political power, rather than exclusively for the protection of a faith “threatened” by the so called infidels.

How much the situations are felt dramatically by the common population is proved by the dramatic phenomenon of emigration: thousands of desperate people who abandon their lands without baggage other than hope in a future that their motherland seems unable to guarantee. But this dream is too often broken by the resistance of a western society that doesn’t know or doesn’t want to know or cannot offer them real opportunities of integration. What happens then to those who realize that they have been attracted to the lights of a society that seemed to have promised them a future, but who then find themselves confined within the gates of a reception that looks very much like a prison? What reaction can they have?
Let’s make some considerations:
- Can we first of all project of ourselves an image of a good society, welcoming, better than theirs, tolerant, even opulent, and then not be able to offer concrete work opportunities and integration to immigrants?
- Is it in any way right to have rules that regulate the arrival of foreign citizens within ones national boundaries, on the basis of the real possibility to offer work and integration; and therefore it is understandable that one might find it difficult to face the pressure of a multitude of desperate people.
- What then could be the best method to give concrete assistance, projected towards a solution of the problem at its root, rather than in temporary forms of assistance?

The Mediterranean and the countries that overlook it, continue to represent a crossroads of history where 3 continents and 3 fundamental religious expressions meet and clash, which have allowed the development of uncountable cultures and traditions, a human heritage that has no equals in any other part of the world.
And yet, such wealth paradoxically represents the reason of the conflict, attacks, rivalries and resentments and of much, too much pain.
We would like to dedicate the next three year period to the analysis of the relational dynamics of peoples, cultures and religions in the Countries of the Mediterranean, aiming it at the comprehension of the motivations that see half of the Islamic world fighting against the other half, and both of them together fighting against the entire Hebrew and Western Christian world. We would like to investigate which historic, political, cultural, religious and economic reasons can be used to understand the present situation. What responsibilities can be assigned to one or the other party in question? But, above all, we would like to research which possible actions it would be appropriate to adopt, to remove, at the roots, the reasons of these conflicts.
We would like all the Brothers of the Confederation to bring their own contributions in this discussion, even and above all, with technical studies of a juridical, economic, political nature which draw from competences developed in the profane life, where the Masonic perspective which distinguishes us, can act as the guideline in the development of the analysis.
We would then like to select and merge the works into a paper to be published and sent to all the associations, entities, organs involved in the situations, which are the object of our analysis, with the hope of giving an active contribution to a positive development of the situation.