Dialogue between Civilizations can be just as effective as the Olympic Truce in establishing peace. It allows for development and promotion of common value prerequisites to be determined, values, which, within the context of a wider understanding, could be integrated into the universal values of mankind.
George A. Papandreou is quite in supporting that one of the ideas promoted by the movement for Olympic Truce involves inter-cultural dialogue. All the more with regards to the Mediterranean, an area that encompasses various civilizations. Several initiatives for dialogue between these civilizations are being planned within the framework of the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, a procedure, which could apply to the rest of the world as well. The Athens Olympic Games in addition to the Winter Olympics in Torino following provide an excellent opportunity for dialogue that shall focus on the Mediterranean civilizations.
Civilization, a basic element distinctive of nations, proves to be the most solid communication channel. Within a realm of instability resulting from globalization and the fluidity of social, political, and economic structures, thus provoking conflicts and contradictions, civilization remains the fundamental means in substantial contact, thereby immediately setting forth the formulation of relationships between nations of the world.
People are responsible for their civilization, their historical course and evolution in general. As people and Nations, there is a role we are called upon to play in the course of mankind whilst simultaneously showing respect to both our civilization, which constitutes our heritage, and to that of others. Thus, we create a common ruler for civilization and common universal values of mankind.
Civilization entails a proposal for the future, one that provides elements for quality, duration, and the ability to overcome the transient. A proposition originating from the present and the past that is directly interrelated with social structures and values that invigorate even our communal existence.
In our quest for mutually accepted cultural values, the goal is that diversities lead to the creation of a spirit of broadened understanding and respect, rather than constitute a source of conflict. In other words, accepting other values and in peaceful coexistence. The fundamental building blocks of the substratum upon which common values of civilization should be founded on include mutual understanding, mutual respect and honest communication.
Respect for diversity constitutes a value, purpose and limit at the same time. This issue comprises the limits or boundaries of modern civilization. It represents the purpose of a universal multicultural society that will focus on diversity; a democratic and peaceful society founded on pluralism, tolerance, and intellectual amplitude. It determines the quality of a democratic society that shall not be based upon the simplistic authority of the absolute prevalence of majority opinion, but rather it will ensure fair treatment of minorities and shall eliminate any abuse on behalf of the dominating position. These are the values of understanding, tolerance, acceptance, and dialogue. This is where politics come to an end. Self-respect is non-negotiable. Diplomacy becomes the means for its defense; it eliminates ambiguous expression so as to transform the fight for impression into one of substance. It is within this framework that Dialogue between Civilizations may contribute to the maximum level.
Current circumstances give rise to the question, bet, and challenge of history that peoples, and more specifically those living in the area, have before us. Have we, as peoples, nations, and cultures, the power to live with one another in harmony? Have we the power to cooperate peacefully for the benefit of all? Have we the power to promote the wealth of our different civilizations and traditions? Have we the power to escape from fear facing diversity of others? Have we the power to regard this pluralism in civilizations in our area as a source of inspiration, creativity, innovation, and collective power, in view of contemporary circumstances? Have we the power to be set free, rather than being held captive of rivalries of the past with the history we share teaching us ways to improve our collaboration in the future? Is it for this future exactly, that we have to join our voices? Have we therefore the power – we, the peoples of the area – to eventually become masters of our own destiny? Not to be in need, not to give way to external political interventions and military interference?
Then and only then shall every human, every minority, in every corner of this area be attributed its value and guaranteed protection, within the context of a powerful intercultural dialogue and by the power of justice, respect, and tolerance. Then, we would be able to speak of Human Unity, Mediterranean, Balkan, that “shall ensure equality to all: White and Black, Christian, Muslim and Jewish people, from Bosnia to Arabia” as Regas Feraeos distinctively said.
Civilization has always been the unifying element of the Mediterranean. Due to the proximity of different cultural forms, even those that were regarded as competitive, life within the same ecosystem provided the opportunity of a wider exchange and a cultural encountering even during periods of conflicts. Dialogue never ceased to exist and the exchange was present even in cases where the dividing line involved different religions – Christianity and Islam –. Nowadays, there have been developing attempts to divide the world on the basis of arbitrary generalizations and subtractions: Islam against Christianity, Catholicism against Orthodoxy, the West against the “new East”. This attempt, aside from the survival of the circles supporting it, is being used to shelter racist and xenophobic trends that pursue to “resolve” social problems through similar ideologies.
It is necessary for all those initiatives that shall promote cultural encountering of peoples in the Mediterranean and the many elements uniting them to evolve. On the other hand, these initiatives should bring forward cultural diversity of Mediterranean peoples as an element and starting point for tolerance and creativity, rather than a cause for conflict and infringement. Civilization is a department where we could be daring, exceeding beyond acknowledged principles and borders.
An indisputable factor that comes decisively into the formation of collective structures upon which civilization develops, involves intellectual effects, which, to a significant degree, are theological. During all periods, religion was a decisive factor in forming societies, as well as in their social functions. A competent political or spiritual leader, regardless of any personal beliefs, should not only acknowledge, but also respect peoples’ sensitivity for freedom of their religious sentiment, particularly in a modern society of citizens, as confirmed within the Declaration for Human Rights. This is secured based upon the principle of religious freedom within all democratic constitutions of our era. This is what political pragmatism within a well-governed, modern democratic society ordains.