Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has lauded Europe’s commitment to the values of cross-cultural tolerance, dialogue, respect and understanding, all of which “must be pillars of the better world we are trying to build.”
In a message to the European Parliament session on the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue (2008), taking place in Strasbourg, Mr. Ban noted that throughout its history, the continent has witnessed terrible outbreaks of armed conflict often rooted in prejudice and hatred.
At the same time, it has also been “fertile soil” for some of the world’s most remarkable innovations, artistic creations and scientific progress, the Secretary-General said in the address, which was delivered by his High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, Jorge Sampaio.
“Europe’s tremendous diversity and its strategic geographic position, at the centre of old and new migration routes, have made it a significant venue for cross-cultural interaction and interfaith dialogue,” he stated. “In particular, its close relationship with its neighbours across the Mediterranean makes Europe an important bridge between civilizations.”
However, Europe – like many other regions of the world – faces several challenges in promoting intercultural dialogue. “Migration, economic uncertainty and political tensions are putting strains on relations between different cultural, ethnic and religious groups.
“But it is precisely in your region, where constructive contacts over the centuries have allowed humanity to take major leaps forward, that opportunities for reconciliation and cooperation exist,” he said.
Mr. Ban encouraged the gathering to pursue joint economic projects, educational exchanges, and other initiatives that will improve people’s lives and create “a bulwark against intolerance, religious fundamentalism and extremism.”
He also pledged the assistance of the UN in these efforts, noting in particular the work carried out by the Alliance – the campaign launched by the UN in 2005 to help overcome prejudices between nations, cultures and religions.
“For the sake of countless people living between the extremes and yearning for dignity and peace, let us work together so that intercultural dialogue can bear fruit.”