In line with cultural activities of the World Centre for the Studies and Researches on the Green Book, known as; "Lecture of the month", the Centre invited UNESCO's former Director General, Federico Mayor, to present this month's (August) lecture. Indeed, Dr. Federico Mayor was at the Centre and presented his lecture entitled: "Intercultural dialogue"...
Then he emphasized that there was no thing called impossible citing many event in our contemporary history including South Africa saying: "Way back in 1988, we said it was impossible to solve the problem of apartheid. However, due to intervention of some able men, including one called Nelson Mandela who was kept in the notorious Robin Island prison for 27 years. This man after he left the prison, instead of harboring hatred and desire for vengeance, he extended his hands for dialogue, making South Africa in the vanguard of dialogue"
Dr Mayor also cited excerpts from the Leader's Speech when he welcomed dialogue with the EU and any other organizations but without preconditions. Dr. Mayor also saluted all those people ready to serve African development, stressing that he loved the African continent because as a Director General of UNESCO he learned a lot from this continent, and that Africa has a lot to offer. In this respect he said there were 30,000 people with a Ph.D. degree in sub-Sahara Africa alone.
In the context of learning from Africa, Dr. Mayor cited the story of his encounter with an African headmistress of a school 30 kilometers from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, where he was talking about education reform, he cited the African lady who was in her forties as telling him; " I like what you said, however, UN organizations come to deliver lessons, but do not listen to our advise. I am teaching here for so many years and you want to teach us". Dr Mayor confessed that he was embarrassed by this lady's statement.
Dr. Mayor revealed that immediately after his return from his African visit, he summoned UNESCO's staff for a meeting. The focus of the meeting was to listen to others, he said. He went on; "This was the advice of the African lady, by using dialogue, and talk education can be furthered". He maintained; " We must listen and conduct a dialogue, it is in this context that I am here". As a biochemist, sometimes I explain to my students that life has no colour or shape, this proves true for dialogue".
Dr. Mayor emphasized; "Each individual is able to be creative and that this world is multicultural, and multi-civilization world and that there is a common denominator between such cultures and civilizations.
As an example for closing the chapter of the past, and the necessity for a dialogue, Dr.Mayor cited the harmony between France and Germany despite the Second World War hostility and cruelty.
Dr. Mayor then referred to the San Francisco meeting, after the Second World War, which was convened under the motto: "How to avert our children the catastrophe of war". However, Dr. Mayor expressed regrets over what to follow by saying, "Unfortunately, the UN which ought to have mandate and more resources, retreated from its responsibility, leaving room for other countries to control the whole globe. Now the world is undergoing difficult circumstances".
Dr. Mayor expressed optimism that the world one-day oversteps lack of harmony among people, irrespective of their race, religion, and colour.etc. Hoping that post -September 11 was only a reaction, not more.
Dr.Mayor emphasized the need to practice equality among human beings irrespective of any differences by saying; "All people, children, all human beings in general should have the same treatment, unfortunately, this is not the case today"
He stated; " The world today embraces six billion people. It is incumbent upon us to cooperate in promoting dialogue among all cultures, religions, and ideologies".
Dr. Mayor refuted some concepts such as those advocated by some people; he referred in particular to Samuel Huntington, who emphasized the notion of Islam-Christianity clash. Dr. Mayor revealed that he read the Quran, and stressed that all scriptures advocate peace and love.
Dr Mayor said in 1994 he called for a meeting in Barcelona parliament, in which 12 religious denominations and groups were present including, Catholic, and Protestant Christians, Muslim individuals, as well as Confucians and others. Dr. Mayor said I posed one question that was; " Do your religions condone violence? " The answer he said was unanimous " No". They said religion was based on love.
Dr Mayor urged the need for intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, based on respect. He said he was from Catalonia, which has a mosaic of cultures. He said; "Some people think that the best way to protect culture was through isolation, this is a big mistake. We must remember that even the solid Berlin wall had fallen". He emphasized: "When we promote inter-culture relations, relationships, friendships and solidarity are strengthened. Humanity does not prosper with economic and political developments alone, but with culture and education".
Dr Mayor broadly defined dialogue as talking and listening to others. It is in this context that once he said he wrote a book about talk and peace.
Talking about the achievement of the elapsed century he said;" we must take count of the dead, discoveries and breakthroughs made such as discovery of antibiotics, communication revolution," But he wondered did we achieve much on the humanist side? Regrettably he said there was not much that we can offer to our children in this respect.
Emphasizing the urgency for deploying dialogue as our way of life, he said we must defend our ideologies using dialogue.
Dr. Mayor deplored North-South disparity describing such state of affairs as horrifying.
In our pursuit of dialogue and culture of peace he said in 1991, I asked Jacques Delors to chair an educational committee. Delors’ committee offered us two educational pillars, the attitude to learn how to be, and avoid the unity of culture. They said we must learn how to live together. To give and take and progress steadily.
He emphasized: "We must share everything, we are not generous even with culture. Therefore, disparity increases. We must learn how to share things and conduct a dialogue in a normal way"
Dr Mayor said; "Three years ago I made a big net of nets, to address those who do not listen, whether they are countries, or Unions such as EU, USA and one day the African Union"
He wondered; how there will be a dialogue among big institutions? We must share and enjoy the technology networks available today. In this way with 300,000 voices we have the ability to make our voices heard"
He reiterated; " Some people say how can we influence,” He cited the example of the ants and the elephant, he said; once 1000 ants are united, their voice will be listened to by the elephant". He emphasized to be free one must learn and listen and conduct a dialogue. We can draw lessons from the past but we must look forward to the future.
After the lecturer concluded his lecture, the door was opened for interventions and questions. In his intervention, Dr. Rajeb Abudabus stated; "We thank Dr. Mayor who is from a multi-cultural country. We are here to conduct a dialogue. A dialogue I believe will be much effective once it is among intellectuals and not among officials. Because, during dialogue of officials there is always interests at stake. Cultural dialogue is best with out political intervention. Culture means freedom and launching oneself. It is the noblest thing. It is the thing that gives a human being his humanist aspect. War has never been over cultures but over interests. How can we have a culture of dialogue, in a world the market imposes one culture? One point to be emphasized is that Islam does not legitimize the use of violence on others in order to coerce others to embrace Islam but legitimizes to ward off aggression. Christians and Jews lived under Muslim rule in peace and respect".
In their interventions, the audience posed the following questions:
Sharing and dialogue are beautiful values, what does Dr. Mayor’s view about Western viewpoint on this respect?
In the light of culture of the market, what shape that culture should take?
How can we make a dialogue with those with no culture, as demonstrated in Hiroshima and Vietnam?
How can we make a dialogue with those with no culture? The USA ordered their proxies to wage a war on Libya, when it failed they resorted to 1986 aggression on Libya?
Now there is a monologue and not a dialogue. We must exit monologue and involve ourselves in a dialogue. Ethics, globality. Spirituality, are fundamental to dialogue.
How can we look for dialogue, while the Palestinian people are crashed with tanks? Now Iraq is subjected to destruction. How Europe is silent about all this?
We must focus on methodology and school syllabus. We must not forget the past, but settle it and then look forward into the future?
How can we reconcile between the powerful, the rich and those with no means of subsistence?
Answering the questions, Dr. Federico Mayor said; “ We were speaking about things that seemed impossible. Fifteen years ago, we used to say it was impossible to change the USSR but eventually it happened, so was apartheid and El Salvador. The situation in Guatemala seemed impossible but now it is ended. Why? Because we find the way. Hannibal said; “We must look if we do not find we will create. The unexpected is our hope.
I believe we can find solutions to problems we think impossible to find solutions to. We must build a dialogue even if that is against the stream. The saying which says if you want peace you should be prepared for war” is wrong. We must change now. Peace means equality, it means many things that we must build. Culture is behavior and conduct. Globalization is poverty,
There must be a cultural dialogue. Violence always breeds violence and counter violence.
We must not only give the past to our children, but give them the future”