Top-level meeting on intercultural and interreligious dialogue
Casa Árabe's Director, Eduardo López Busquets, takes part in this meeting dedicated to the Euro-Mediterranean region
July 24, 2015
The Euro-Mediterranean region requires urgent, pragmatic action by religious and cultural role-players to deal with regional challenges.
• Institutions responsible for intercultural dialogue and cooperation, religious representatives and interreligious organizations are working together to build bridges of mutual understanding in the Euro-Mediterranean region. This is the first meeting within a long-lasting process oriented towards action, the goal of which is to strengthen the abilities of organizations and promote their cooperation so as to make a significant contribution to the fight against discrimination and intolerance.
• The participants welcomed this meeting as a unique opportunity to increase awareness about the vital contribution of intercultural and interreligious dialogue to achieve peace and uphold security in the region.
Barcelona, July 23, 2015. Intercultural and interreligious dialogue is a powerful tool for achieving stability and peace, and to fight intolerance and extremism, while at the same time defending the values of peaceful co-existence and mutual understanding. In accordance with this premise, 80 representatives of institutions responsible for intercultural dialogue and cooperation, interreligious organizations, religious authorities and prominent personages met on July 22-23 at the headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean in Barcelona, for a meeting to focus on intercultural and interreligious dialogue.
The conference was held at the initiative of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (Spanish MAE) with the cooperation of the Union for the Mediterranean (UpM), the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), the UN Alliance of Civilizations (AdC), the Anna Lindh Foundation (FAL) and the European Union.
This meeting was held within the context of the twentieth anniversary of the Barcelona Process, as well as the current consultation on reviewing the European Neighbors Policy (ENP), and came in response to the increasing importance placed upon intercultural and interreligious dialogue in the Euro-Mediterranean region.
The participants underlined that this event was a unique occasion to inventory and evaluate tools, instruments and institutions existing for intercultural and interreligious dialogue; to position intercultural and interreligious dialogue as a central goal within a renewed focus of a multilateral policy for the Mediterranean, as well as establishing a road map that involves the main institutions for a shared strategy of intercultural and interreligious dialogue.
After the debates held during the meeting, the institutions approved a document with conclusions to build the foundations for cooperation. Thanks to this top-level meeting, they will begin to identify successful stories existing in intercultural and interreligious dialogue, given that the participants have accepted that the great challenge is to significantly increase the visibility of the initiatives carried out. Inventories of these activities and programs will focus on three different fields of activity: education, the media and youth. Another of the meeting’s conclusions was the commitment to strengthen an alliance of partners and improve the mechanisms for cooperation by institutions which are active in intercultural dialogue.
José Manuel García-Margallo, Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, underlined that “the institutions and the States which form part of this must reflect on how to become more effective, bearing in mind their complementary features and synergies.” Neither the institutions nor the States which form part of this can achieve the goals required by the current times on their own.” “A reinforced role of intercultural and interreligious dialogue as a tool for prevention, mediation and solving conflicts will make a difference in the performance of institutions. It is urgent that we shift from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention,” he concluded.
“The region’s challenges, such as terrorism, extremist tendencies and the humanitarian tragedy of immigration in the Mediterranean, confirm the need for strong collective action and an all-encompassing focus. The reinforcement of intercultural and interreligious dialogue, strengthening regional integration and bringing civil societies closer are more important than ever to create a common space of solidarity and stability in the Euro-Mediterranean region,” pointed out Fathallah Sijilmassi, Secretary General of the UpM.
Young men and women from the northern and southern Mediterranean are the main victims of unemployment, social instability and extremism, but they are at the same time unused assets for promoting intercultural dialogue. The participants discussed how youths and women can play a more important role by working with institutions to convey and promote policies involving cooperation amongst socieities in general.
“As the EU and its partners in the South set to recalibrating their relations, we are calling out to refocus a culture focusing on relations and to establish a first strategy for global intercultural dialogue in favor of the Mediterranean.” The Anna Lindh Foundation and its network of more than 4,000 social role-players is prepared to do their part in developing this strategy based on a focus built from the “bottom up.” Prepared to act with youths from the region as the main role-players in dialogue, it thereby hopes to achieve a reversal of the extremist narrative and a “clash of ignorances,” pointed out Elisabeth Guigou, president of the Anna Lindh Foundation.
Faisal Bin Abdulrahman Bin Muaammar, Secretary General of KAICIID, concluded that, to strengthen acknowledgment of the importance of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, institutions have already started to create an action plan for future activities during the meeting. These activities are based on a common agenda that includes the main initiatives planned for the upcoming years.
“The eradication of violent extremism and radicalization can be achieved through intercultural and interreligious dialogue, but also through practical, proactive focuses, such as building ties of trust between different communities and promoting long-term transnational associations for cooperation that bear in mind our common interest in peace and security,” emphasized Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser, the High Representative of the Alliance of Civilizations.
The top-level meeting also served as a platform for creating an alliance between the main institutions and organizations taking part in intercultural and interreligious dialogue. All of them highlighted the need for positive focuses and cooperation to promote mutual understanding. This was also the first step in a long-lasting process oriented towards action, the goal of which is to strengthen the abilities of organizations and promote their cooperation so as to make a significant contribution to the fight against discrimination and intolerance.