Malta must be respectful of the diverse faith traditions in the country and the Mediterranean, with their own developing understanding of marriage and its place in society, the President said.

President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca was delivering the opening speech during a plenary session of a conference organised by the University of Malta in collaboration with the University of Amsterdam and George Mason University on ‘Religious Marriages in the Mediterranean’.

She said such conferences were an opportunity for academia to share knowledge about marriages, and in particular, the way marriages were understood - both legally and culturally - in different societies.

While acknowledging that some faith traditions had a more rigid definition of marriage, the President said “we must also accept that it is a living and dynamic institution which is influenced by the developing needs, attitudes, socio-economic changes, and understandings of our contemporary communities”.

Just as previous generations addressed the inequalities and injustices confronted by individuals who faced prejudice based upon racial restrictions on marriages, the President mentioned that “similar restrictions still applied in many parts of the world to same-gender couples seeking legal recognition of their relationships”.

The President said that the diversity of faith traditions and cultures was a typical example of the cultural diversity that the region embraced, adding that the celebration of diversity and intercultural dialogue had a deeper meaning than the simple fact that people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds lived together.

 “Successful intercultural dialogue means that there is a commitment to promote processes of inclusion, where each community is encouraged and supported to preserve and share what is most valuable about its own distinctive culture and tradition”. This would ensure that the richness of Maltese culture and cultures across the Euro-Mediterranean region continued to prosper.

Culture and identity required a careful balance of collaboration and an openness to respectful cooperation.

“I believe that when we are committed to effective intercultural dialogue, then we must also be committed to the fundamental freedom of religion”, the President said, adding that this was why “a multicultural Malta must also be a respectful multi-faith country”.

 “While also maintaining the integrity of our individual values, we must never close channels of respectful dialogue”, President Coleiro Preca stressed. “We must listen to the members of our communities and nurture a sense of active citizenship in our society as part of a healthy democracy”.

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