The Words of the Wells Family
Left: Dr. Paul Moires (convener); right: Dr. Jonathan Wells (executive director of New ERA).
The second Christian-Marxist dialogue sponsored by New ERA took place in Igls, near Innsbruck, Austria, from August 12-15, 1987. Participants in the first conference, held in Switzerland in September 1986, had concluded that that conference was so successful they wanted New ERA to sponsor a sequel.
The theme of the second Christian- Marxist dialogue was "Christian and Marxist Views on Confidence Building in a Time of Crisis:' The theme reflected the need to seek grounds for frank and open dialogue in the midst of international distrust and disagreement over fundamental issues. To discuss this theme, 22 participants came from nine countries: Bulgaria, China, Czechoslovakia, Great Britain, Hungary, the Netherlands, West Germany, the United States, and Yugoslavia. The conference was convened and moderated by Dr. Paul Mojzes of Pennsylvania, a veteran of many Christian-Marxist dialogues and author of several books on the subject.
A Christian theologian from the United States and a Marxist philosopher from Hungary delivered the two main papers addressing the conference theme. Originally, the Marxist paper was to have been delivered by the Hungarian philosopher Jozsef Lukacs, a prominent and highly respected participant in Christian- Marxist dialogues, but he died suddenly a few months before the conference. A colleague of the late Dr. Lukacs posthumously translated one of his last papers and delivered it at Igls together with some remarks of his own.
Four respondents then commented on the two papers to initiate discussion: one Christian and one Marxist responded to the Christian paper, and one Christian and one Marxist responded to the Marxist paper.
Although conferences such as this sometimes consist of two unrelated monologues (as each side merely states its position "for the record"), this meeting, like the one last year in Switzerland, was successful in generating genuine dialogue. Open give and take characterized the discussions, as the participants frankly explored what it takes to build trust and confidence in an encounter that, is often filled with animosity and suspicion.
Although the many disagreements among the participants were certainly not resolved by the meeting, it is noteworthy that the conference did not create a sense of confrontation but promoted a common search for bases of mutual trust and understanding. It was clear that both Christianity and Marxism are diverse and pluralistic: Marxists disagree among themselves at least as much as Christians disagree among themselves. Furthermore, both Christianity and Marxism find themselves in a crisis as an increasing number of people today seem bent on mere satisfaction of their material and social needs.
The discussion was so lively that at the end of the conference everyone wished they could have continued an additional day.
It was gratifying to see a fine group of participants from the United States, a larger proportion of women delegates, and several countries represented this time that were not at the 1986 dialogue.
An important feature of these conferences is that people who disagree sharply on ideological, philosophical, and religious issues can nevertheless meet in a climate of mutual respect, and with a common desire for world peace. Since there is currently a great deal of change taking place in Eastern Europe, including an increase in religious liberty, and since there are some positive developments in East/ West arms negotiations, dialogues such as this may contribute to a general improvement in East/West relations.
A third New ERA Christian-Marxist dialogue is being tentatively planned for Spain in 1988. Quite possibly, these dialogues will lead to future New ERA conferences in socialist countries; already, contacts initiated at the first (1986) dialogue led indirectly to the New ERA Introductory Seminar on Unification Theology and Lifestyle just held in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia.