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Intercultural Dialogue as a step to Universal Peace
Talha Furkan 2007-09-19

During this high speed age, the ‘old’ world is shrinking and communication is becoming increasingly more global. Thanks to the news media and enhanced mobility, changes in all spheres of life are occurring faster, and with more depth. In increasingly diverse societies, people of different faiths, cultures, nations and civilizations interact with one another. Boundaries become blurred, different cultures are confronted with each other more frequently and more intensively, and – whether intentionally or unintentionally – there is increasing interaction between peoples and societies. This succession of changes offers new opportunities, but there are challenges and disadvantages as well. For instance, the events of 11 September 2001, the bomb attacks in Madrid on 11 March 2003, and in London on 7 and 21 July 2005, as well as the cartoon crisis that originated in Denmark in February 2006 have changed the world dramatically. With respect to the Netherlands, the murder of Dutch populist politician Pim Fortuyn on 6 May 2002 and on Dutch filmmaker and columnist Theo van Gogh on 2 November 2004 intensified the severe tensions between the ethnic and religious groups in the Dutch society. All these incidents have once more drawn attention to the possibility of a ‘clash of civilizations’  and to the discussion of global religious conflict in past and present.

     At the global level there is today an urgent need for a ‘dialogue of civilizations’, a new sense of peaceful coexistence in the contemporary world. Dialogue between civilizations is a step to peace and is a social and religious responsibility to facilitate peaceful coexistence in human societies. It is a method or tool to be used in establishing a culture of peace among people of different ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds. Dialogue can be characterised in three successive stages: the first stage is accepting the other in his or her own position; the second stage involves respecting the position of the other(s), and the third stage is the concept of sharing one’s own cultural and religious values in the context of other(s). The last mentioned stage implies that people should learn about the other’s cultural identity, religious beliefs and spirituals values. This knowledge should subsequently be used to learn more about their own moral and cultural values. These three stages seem to be essential to realize sustainable dialogue and cooperation with people of other religious persuasions and life philosophies. 

     Dialogue is at first a major stepping stone to a union, in collaboration between the world religions transcending doctrinal differences. At the same time, it would be an important stepping stone to a new world order of peace and justice for all. Respecting differences is necessary to avoid mutual destruction, which means avoiding that the earth becomes a kind of living hell. Real peace resulting from dialogue is possible only when accompanied by moral values and mutual knowledge and acceptance of cultural and religious identity. An ideal world in which ‘cosmics’, ‘world citizens´ – people of different cultural, ethnical, religious and racial descent –  will be able to live, requires interacting in a harmonious and dialogical way to sustain and endure a culture of peace in the more plural societies.


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