The answer lies in Dialogue

5 April 2013 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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- By Salma Yusuf

The year 2001 was declared as the “International Year of Dialogue among Civilizations” which was a logical sequel to the celebration, in 2000, of the “International Year for the Culture of Peace.” The aim was to provide impetus to plan and implement appropriate cultural, educational and social programmes to promote the concept of dialogue among civilizations, including organizing conferences and seminars and disseminating information and scholarly material on the subject.



The year provided the opportunity to emphasize that the present globalization process does not only encompass economic, financial and technological aspects, but must also focus on human, cultural, spiritual dimensions and on the interdependence of humankind and its rich diversity.

Globalization and the resulting free movement of ideas and human beings allow unprecedented encounters among individuals, societies and cultures.  But it also profoundly affects lifestyles and patterns of behaviour, decision-making processes and methods of governance, creativity and forms of expression. 
Against this dynamic background, there is a need for renewed commitment to promote and develop cooperation and understanding on the basis of the recognition of the equal dignity of individuals and of societies and the uniqueness of their contributions to human advancement. Though the year was envisaged in the context of inter-state relations, it is very relevant to intra-state relations as well.

" The founding principles of a movement for inter-cultural dialogue are worth revisiting even today, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, for an assessment of relevance to a local context of intra-state-relations "

The founding principles of a movement for inter-cultural dialogue are worth revisiting even today, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, for an assessment of relevance to a local context of intra-state relations. Such a movement seeks to analyze the dynamics of interaction between cultures by highlighting their mutual contributions, borrowings and interactions. The aim is to acquire a better understanding of the long-term processes that are the mainspring of the memory of peoples.  They are invariably the source of prejudice and incomprehension, if not intolerance of others, and they lay the foundations for dialogue between different civilizations, cultures, religions and spiritual traditions.  This approach transcends the traditional, reductive approach to intercultural dialogue addressing only the mutual knowledge of cultures and civilizations.   This will enable an analysis of the basic concepts of heritage, identity and creativity as they take shape and to illuminate their composite nature. In this context, what is sought is the strengthening of the processes, both historical and contemporary, that are conducive to a favourable interaction, mutual understanding and even convergence between cultures through the discovery of a common heritage and shared ethical values.

One of the goals of dialogue among civilizations is to spread knowledge and appreciation of the historical and cultural background of peoples living in different circumstances and areas of the world. Often, the lack of mutual understanding prevents the process of constructive communication and cross-fertilization.
Nearly four years after the conclusion of a three-decade long conflict in Sri Lanka, a re-appraisal of how best to pursue a common vision for all the peoples of the country and for its collective interests is imperative. The need for true dialogue and interaction among different peoples, and cultures in the country means that in order to be a meaningful dialogue it must take place in a spirit of goodwill and confidence. Such will ensure that there will be no room for division along artificial cultural and religious fault-lines. A true dialogue can only occur when there is genuine respect for and understanding of the other. We need to emphasize the common values of different cultures and religions to strengthen harmony and amity.

An increasingly inter-connected world today, with its high level of interdependence, requires societies to understand one another in greater depth than ever before. Consequently, employing cross-cultural skills that facilitate mutual understanding among societies has become a condition for peaceful relations. Likewise, societies with multi-cultural experiences are particularly well placed to contribute to this objective. Their distinct social and historical experiences are conducive to cultivating cross-cultural skills that would be needed to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts of values. They can assist in avoiding generating stereotypes, in opposing animosity and in preventing extremism. They can also help to achieve a balance between preserving the cultural identity of all segments of multi-cultural societies. Sri Lanka, having a history of rich relationships of goodwill and amity among different cultures co-existing in the country is well-placed to contribute to an international movement for inter-cultural dialogue.

" Sri Lanka, having a history of rich relationships of goodwill and amity between different cultures co-existing in the country is well-placed to contribute to an international movement for inter-cultural dialogue "

Inter-cultural dialogue has often been defined as an open and respectful exchange of views between individuals and groups belonging to different cultures that would lead to a deeper understanding of the other.

In all our endeavours we need to stress that dialogue is a crucial tool of any effort aimed at conflict prevention and post-conflict reconciliation. It is the means through which immediate tensions which could lead to conflict can be discussed, misunderstandings and misconceptions corrected, compromises identified and solutions negotiated.

However, while dialogue is critical, it must be followed with carefully developed measures designed to create and preserve a harmonious and inclusive society. A harmonious and inclusive society in turn enables the individual to participate in and to identify himself or herself with the community as a whole. Such identification is a key factor in the prevention of future conflicts and in advancing post-war reconciliation.

salmayusuf@gmail.com

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