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Religion and Society

From Asia, "Polyphony of Cultures", a Contribution to Inter-civilizational Dialogue

Ancient Civilizations, New Beginnings: A Dialogue of Change” was the main topic of an international conference held in mid-December in Paris (France). The event was organised by the Singapore-based Asia-Europe Foundation and the Moscow-based World Public Forum (see www.dialogueofcivilizations.org), which used the occasion to highlight Asia’s desire to contribute to intercultural dialogue.

 

 

The meeting gave participants a chance to reiterate the importance of dialogue as a process of change and conversion as well as mutual learning and respect. It also gave them an opportunity to reaffirm how important dialogue is for avoiding three of today’s foremost pitfalls, namely the tendency to culturalise social conflicts, to culturally and politically assimilate others, and lastly to seek segregation as a way to avoid assimilation.

 

The importance given to the fruitful diversity of culturesor “polyphony of cultures” as Pope Benedict XVI put it calls for true dialogue, not any feeble semblance of it; one that takes into account the role History plays from which we can and must learn.

 

It has been said that dialogue is real only if it changes the people involved who must truly try to listen to one another as bearers if an unambiguous identity. Indeed Lévi-Strauss rightly pointed out that an “identity is not a disease.” Only if one’s identity is open and unambiguous can the scope of dialogue grow because it is no longer dependent solely on categories that enclose it, as some would like, but is about human beings talking to one another, putting their humanity on the line, bearing witness to the truth, goodness and beauty they encounter.

 

 

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