International Conference 
"Dialogue among Civilizations"

Vilnius (Lithuania), 23-26 April 2001  

Co-presided by:  


 President Valdas Adamkus of Lithuania
 President
Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland
 UNESCO Director-General
Koïchiro Matsuura
 
..................................................................................................................................................

   

The Vilnius conference
..............................

Agenda of the Conference
..............................
Programme of the Conference

..............................
Special Introduction
by
Her Excellency Ugné Karvelis
Ambassadeur
Permanent Delegate to UNESCO  

..............................
President Khatami’s Message to the Conference
..............................
Dr. Seyyed Ataollah Mohajerani’s Address to the Conference
..............................
Contact
..............................

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Vilnius Conference
.......................................

In April 1999, highest Lithuanian officials advanced an idea that Lithuania host a major international conference on dialogue among civilisations. Both H.E. Valdas Adamkus, President of Lithuania, and H.E. Vytautas Landsbergis, the then Chairman of the Parliament, during their meetings with the Assistant Director General of UNESCO, who was visiting Vilnius, highlighted the idea that Lithuania could be the main organiser of an international European conference with participants from other continents dedicated to the dialogue among civilisations.

In late July 1999, H.E. Ugne Karvelis, Lithuanian Ambassador to UNESCO, invited representatives of several Lithuanian ministries, as well as Lithuanian scholars, to a meeting where she informed them about the idea of organising a major international conference in Lithuania dedicated to the dialogue among civilisations.

In November 1999, the UNESCO General Conference decided to give the patronage of UNESCO to the planned Vilnius conference.

A national committee charged of organising the conference headed by the Lithuanian minister of culture, and honourably chaired by the Chairman of the Parliament was set up. Its members are: Lithuanian vice-ministers of culture and foreign affairs, the adviser on cultural affairs to the President of Lithuania, Lithuanian ambassadors both to the UN and UNESCO, chairman of the National UNESCO commission and several scholars. In addition, the organising committee is enlarged by Swedish, Austrian, Polish, German, French, Iranian, and Indian representatives as associate members. The Iranian and Indian ambassadors to UNESCO have also been invited to take part in the international meetings on the organisation of the conference, and have become members of the organising committee.

During its meetings, the National Committee proposed that the conference should take place in April 2001 in Vilnius, Lithuania, so that the final adopted declaration can be submitted to the 161th session of UNESCO’s Executive Board, and included in the draft project of UNESCO’s Programme and Budget to be submitted to the 31th General conference (31C/5) as the first of the series of steps to be taken by UNESCO in this field.

On the other hand, the Declaration of Vilnius which should be adopted at its conclusion could become a valuable contribution to the preparation of the Summit of the “Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie” to be held in Beirut in the fall of 2001 and also dedicated to the theme of “Dialogue among Civilisations”. Lithuania having been admitted to this organisation as an observer since September 1999 wishes to participate actively in its projects.

The conference will last three days and will include both renowned scholars in the field of the comparative study of civilisations and prominent artists from Europe, as well as other parts of the world. It has been suggested that the number of participants could be up to 60. In addition to plenary session and workshops, there will be a separate cultural programme within the conference framework.

In September 2000 H.E. Valdas Adamkus invited H.E. Alexander Kwasnewski, President of the Republic of Poland to co-chair the Conference. In November 2000 H.E. Alexander Kwasniewski kindly accepted invitation to give his patronage to the Conference. Both Presidents agreed that the Conference be expanded to include acting head of states from different continents who would be given floor to discuss issues pertaining to dialogue among civilisations at the round table in the onset of the Conference. A dozen of head of states is to be invited to the Conference.

The aim of the Conference is to bring together head of states, distinguished scholars and artists who have been engaged in the debate on, and practical dealing with, the issues with regard to the civilisational contacts in the contemporary world, so that they can share their insights on the present state of the civilisational communication and discuss the better ways to build mutual understanding between the different civilisations. The conference will not confine itself to the stating of the present-day situation but will reflect upon historical aspects of the dialogue between different civilisations, and also will seek to propose the possible ways for pursuing the dialogue among civilisations aiming at its logic end — e.g., mutual understanding, tolerance, solidarity, and co-operation among different world cultures and civilisations.

................................................................................................................................................

Agenda of the Conference
................................................

In addition to the opening round table of head of states, plenary session and six different workshops have been proposed to cover the scope of theoretical and practical approaches to the problematical foci concerning reciprocation among living world civilisations. The workshops are as follows:

1. Reciprocal knowledge and interaction
.................................................................

This workshop is to embrace those presentations the main idea of which is to promote confidence in productive communication among various civilisational units. Writers should find this workshop especially attractive, for it would provide the floor for those speakers whose personal output goes beyond the civilisational boundaries and reaches millions of readers all over the world, thus promoting a better understanding of otherness. What do we know about other civilisations and their interpretative structures of self and of the world around us? How can we acquire a verifiable and referential knowledge of the intellectual and moral sensibilities of other civilisations? Is civilisation, as the largest socio-cultural unit for historical and sociological study, a self-asserting, self-contained, and self-sufficient entity? If not, what is the role of reciprocal knowledge and human interaction in the twentieth-first-century world?

2. Globalisation and cultural plurality
...........................................................

Globalisation implies that the world around us becomes a single place. Yet it does not mean that human creative diversity and cultural plurality are put into question. Globalisation should not be regarded as just another term for a uniform and faceless world devoid of intellectual and cultural plurality. The following questions arise here: How does globalisation affect civilisational processes of human interaction, self-comprehension, and modes of discourse? May it be perceived as the point of intersection of world civilisations? Can we add an important aspect to globalisation by interpreting it as a discovery of other cultures, civilisations, and their sensibilities? These might be the crucial points when discussing the relationship between globalisation and cultural plurality.

3. Plural identities and common values
..............................................................

Much of the present world can be called a melting pot of different cultures. This workshop is intended as a thorough examination of pro and cons of this phenomenon by exploring the experience attained in sharing the same geographical space, while maintaining cultural differences. A phenomenon of multiple, communicating identities, which is inherent in present-day individuals and social groups, will also be closely analysed. At what kind of common values can people arrive, while sustaining their primary identities or loyalties and doing them justice? Is cross-cultural and inter-civilisational tolerance a code word for such values? What is the way a common universe of discourse comes into being? These will be the main foci of the workshop.

4. Trade, science, and cultural exchange
.................................................................

Throughout the history of humanity, trade has been a means to familiarise oneself with distinct cultures, literatures, symbolic and moral codes, and modes of thinking and speaking. Trade may well be said to have always been a way to discover and experience the human world distinct from one’s own milieu. Through travels and overseas trade people of remote cultures came into tight contacts, from which they benefited much more than from immediate economic gain. In more than one way, trade has facilitated artistic and scientific exchange, thus transforming arts and sciences into trans-cultural and even trans-civilisational phenomena. Customs, mores, beliefs, and daily practices have also been passed on from one culture to another by merchants and travellers. However, the workshop will address a range of issues not confined to the history of trade and science. Among other issues, it will discuss the phenomenon of the discovery of the world, including self-discovery.

5. Otherness
....................

An extremely challenging and provocative workshop which will serve as the floor for those speakers who have been engaged in the analysis of issues pertaining to the reflection of the Other. The Other may refer here to an other social group or an other society or an other culture or just another human individual. How do representations and misrepresentations of otherness originate? Why and how is the demonisation of other cultures and civilisations possible? What are the political and moral implications of such a demonisation of otherness? What are metaphysical, ethical, logical, and linguistic premises of otherness as a dimension of human existence? The workshop will address a number of thought-provoking issues, ranging from the miracle of human dialogue to the forms of hatred, such as racism, anti-Semitism, conspiracy theories of society, and xenophobia.

6. Concepts of civilisation for the 21st century
........................................................................

This workshop will attempt a careful examination of the contemporary concepts of civilisation, and of perspectives concerning the future of the comparative study of civilisations, thus seeking to reflect on the traditions of civilisation analysis and to discern those aspects that could be useful for an inclusive concept of civilisation. The concept of civilisation can serve as a means of symbolic and even actual exclusion, not only inclusion. This is why focus will be on the political and moral implications of the ways of our understanding of ourselves and others. Since the civilisational dimension constitutes an interpretative framework for world religions, arts, intellectual and moral sensibilities, scholarship, and mundane experiences, the importance of history, religion, tradition, innovation, and local sensibility will also be discussed. The workshop is designed to serve as a scholarly comparison of western and non-western concepts of civilisation, and also as an effort at a civilisational dialogue of scholars in practice.

................................................................................................................................................

(Preliminary) Programme of the Conference
..........................................................................

  April 23, Monday
10.00-21.00 Arrival and registration of participants

  Hotels:
Vilniaus Narutis
Pilies street 24
2001 Vilnius
Tel.: (370-2) 222894
Fax: (370-2) 622882
e-mail:
laima@narutis.lt

Vilnius RadissonSAS Astorija
Didzioji street 35/2
2001 Vilnius
Tel.: (370-2) 220110
Fax: (370-2) 221762
e-mail:
Vaida.A@RadissonSAS.lt

13.00-14.00 Press conference (Ministry of Culture, J. Basanaviciaus street 5)
17.00-17.30 Meeting of workshop moderators (Hotel Vilnius RadissonSAS Astorija, Didzioji street 35/2)
17.30-19.00 Get-to-know-each-other cocktail (Hotel Vilnius RadissonSAS Astorija, Didzioji street 35/2)
19.30-20.45 Aide Memoire by Kibutz Dance Co.: (Israel) (Opera and Ballet Theatre, A. Vienuolio street 1)

  April 24 (Day I) Tuesday

Office of the President of the Republic of Lithuania (S. Daukanto square 3/8)
Plenary session (White Hall)

Moderator: H.E. Ugnė Karvelis, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Lithuania to UNESCO

9.00-9.10 Welcome speech by H.E. Valdas Adamkus, President of the Republic of Lithuania
9.10-9.20 Welcome speech by Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, Director General of UNESCO
9.20-9.30 Welcome speech by H.E. Alexander Kwasniewski, President of the Republic of Poland
9.30-9.40 Address by H.E. Leonid Kuchma, President of the Ukraine
9.40-10.00 Addresses by the Heads of international organisations:
• H.E. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Secretary General of the International Organisation of Francophony
• H.E. Brunson McKinley, Director General of the International Organisation of Migration
10.00-10.30 Addresses of special envoys of Heads of State and international organisations:
• Mr. Giandomenico Picco, Special envoy of the United Nations Secretary General
• Ms. Helene Carrere D’Encausse, Special envoy of the French Republic, Permanent Secretary, Member of the French Academy
• Dr. Ataollah Mahajerani, Advisor of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Head of the International Centre for Dialogue Among Civilisations
10.30-11.00 Coffee break
11.00-11.30 Key note speech: Prof. Alphonso Lingis (USA)
11.30-12.00 Key note speech: Prof. Alexander Yakovlev (Russia)
12.00-14.30

Reception by H.E. Valdas Adamkus, President of the Republic of Lithuania
(Vilnius Art Gallery, Didzioji street 4)


Plenary session (Office of the President, White Hall)

Moderator: Prof. Alphonso Lingis (USA)

15.00-15.05 Welcome speech by Ms. Sonia Mendieta de Badaroux, Chairperson, Executive Board of UNESCO
15.05-15.30 Key note speech: Ms. Helene Carrere D’Encausse (France)
15.30-15.55 Key note speech: Dr. Rekha Menon (India)
15.55-16.20 Key note speech: Mr. Javier Wimer (Mexico)
16.20-16.40 Coffee break
16.40-17.05 Key note speech: Dr. Yves Plasseraud (France)
17.05-17.30 Key note speech: Dr. Solle Dithebe (South Africa)
19.00-20.15 Lithuania – Home of Nations (St. Johns’ Church, Vilnius University Grand courtyard)
Dr. Marija Krupoves and the Chamber orchestra (conductor Mr. Donatas Katkus): Folk songs of Lithuanian ethnic groups: Karaim, Tatar, Jewish, Russian, Polish, Lithuanian
20.45 Dinner (Hotel Vilniaus Narutis, Pilies street 24)

  April 25 (Day II) Wednesday
9.00-12.30  

Workshops (Vilnius University, Universiteto 3)
1. Reciprocal knowledge and interaction. Moderator: Dr. Yves Plasseraud (Senate Hall)
2. Globalisation and cultural plurality. Moderator: Dr. Steve Austen (Theatre Hall)
3. Plural identities and common values. Moderator: Dr. Yersu Kim (Little Aula)
10.30-11.00 Coffee break
12.30-14.00 Lunch break (Hotel Vilniaus Narutis, Pilies street 24)
14.00-17.30 Workshops (Vilnius University, Universiteto 3)
4. Trade, science, and cultural exchange. Moderator: Mr. Peter Curman (Senate Hall)
5. Otherness. Moderator: Dr. Arthur Cromwell (Theatre Hall)
6. Concepts of civilisation for the 21st century. Moderator: Dr. Leonidas Donskis (Little Aula)
15.30-16.00 Coffee break
18.00-19.00 Dinner (Hotel Vilniaus Narutis, Pilies street 24)
19.00-20.30 Sounds of the Globe (Vilnius Congress Palace, Vilniaus street 6/14)
Osuwa Taiko (Japan)
Petras Vysniauskas and Veronika Pavilioniene (Lithuania)
Les Go de Koteba (Ivory Coast)
Golestan Quintet (Iran)

  April 26 (Day III) Thursday

Plenary session (Vilnius University, Universiteto 3, Little Aula)

Moderator: Dr. Leonidas Donskis (Lithuania)

9.00-11.00 Summary of workshops – reports of workshop moderators
11.00-16.00 Meeting of the drafting group for the Vilnius Declaration
11.30-16.30 Cultural program: excursion around Vilnius and Trakai
13.30-14.30 Lunch

Plenary session (Vilnius University, Universiteto 3, Little Aula)

Moderator: Mr. Doudou Diene, Director, Division of Intercultural Dialogue, UNESCO

17.00-18.30 Closing session: Discussion over the Vilnius
19.00-22.00 Farewall party (Vilniaus Artillery Bastion, Boksto street 20/18)


  April 27 Friday


Departure

................................................................................................................................................

Special Introduction
by
Her Excellency Ugné Karvelis
Ambassadeur
Permanent Delegate to UNESCO  

(Translation of the original French Text)  
......................................................................

Ten years after the re-establishment of its independence and its admission to UNESCO, Lithuania will bring together in its capital, Vilnius, intellectuals, scientists, researchers and artists from Europe, Africa, North and South America and Asia, for a conference devoted to "Dialogue among Civilizations", thus answering the United Nations’ call in its proclamation of the year 2001 as the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations.

  By doing so, Vilnius starts again a tradition begun during the Middle Ages: at that time, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which spread from the Baltic to the Black Sea, was a principal regional power and its capital was a compass card, a crossroads if you will, where the cultures of the East and West met.

 Ethnic Lithuania represented only one tenth of a sparsely populated, and ethnically, culturally and religiously heterogeneous empire governed by Grand Dukes who were satisfied to rule without seeking to colonize or to assimilate. From the beginning of the XIVth Century, Grand Duke Gediminas, who made Vilnius his capital in 1323, launched a call to the craftsmen and merchants promising them tax exemptions for a 10 year period: Russians and Germans soon flowed into Vilnius. 

Lithuania remained faithful to its ancestral religion until 1387. By the middle of XIVth Century, Vilnius counted two predominant religions: one Catholic, the other Orthodox. At that time, two brothers shared power for a period of more than 30 years. Kestutis, sovereign of historic Lithuania, remained faithful to paganism, whilst Algirdas, who reigned over the Slavs, married an Orthodox princess and baptized those of his children born on Christian soil, while keeping those born in Lithuania pagan. This demonstrated a rare spirit of tolerance, which reigned at that time. 

The first Act of Privilege in favor of the Jews was promulgated in 1388. By the middle of the XVIIIth Century, the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania united as a "Common Republic" and sheltered the largest Jewish community in the world. Vilnius, where a great synagogue was built, housed one of the most famous rabbinical schools of the Ashkenazie world. It also became the "Jerusalem of North". Karaîme and Tartar communities established themselves throughout Lithuania.

 During the Renaissance, Vilnius was a cosmopolitan metropolis where a freedom of expression comparable to that which made the reputation of Basle reigned: from as early as 1522, works were printed in Latin, Bielorussian, Polish and Hebrew. The University, founded by the Jesuits in 1579, was one of oldest in the area and attracted many foreign scientists such as Copernicus.

 However, the sacking of Vilnius by the Muscovite troops who rose against the Polish central authority marked the end of this spiritual golden age. By 1795 the quasi-totality of Lithuanian territory fell to Russia. The Tsars practiced a policy of Russianization and particularly harsh repression after the rising of 1863.

Vilnius remained, nonetheless, as a multi-ethnic and pluri-cultural centre until the Nazi occupation (1941-1944). During this time, a large majority of the Jewish population was exterminated. Equally, the incorporation of Lithuania into the Soviet Union resulted in the exodus of the Polish intelligentsia.

 Situated at the crossroads between not only the East and the West, but also between Northern and Southern Europe, Lithuania hopes again to become a place of meeting and exchange, as well as a privileged place for dialogue between civilizations.

Ugné Karvelis
................................................................................................................................................

President Khatami’s Message to the Conference:
.................................................................................................
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate

On behalf of myself and the Government of Islamic Republic of Iran, I would like to thank His Excellency Mr. Valdas Adamkus, the President of Lithuania and the Lithuanian Government for their initiative in organizing this meeting. I would also like to thank H. E. Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, the Director General of UNESCO, for his efforts in promoting the idea of Dialogue among Cultures and Civilizations through UNESCO’s different actions including co-organizing this event.

The presence of President of Poland, President of Ukraine, special envoys of many international organizations, intellectuals, writers, artists, scientists and thinkers in this gathering indicate the multi-faceted importance of the issue of Dialogue among Civilizations and Cultures, and the comprehensiveness of the approach we need in this field.

It would have been a pleasure for me to be able to personally participate in your discussions, because I think that, in the long run, these kinds of gatherings are much more important than those which follow a strictly political point. It is better to come together to discuss questions and causes, which can give rise to clashes and antagonisms, than to try to make up for their consequences.

Your gathering is both a beginning and a renewal. On one hand, it is part of a continuing process, which has been going on from the beginning of history. On the other hand, in as much as it is a deliberate action, it marks a new step in this process. The fact that the year 2001 has been chosen as the United Nations’ Year of Dialogue among Civilizations is a revealing sign of the interest of the international community in this idea, and the need of the whole world for such a dialogue.

I would like to seize this occasion to thank UNESCO for going beyond the Year 2001, having included the theme of dialogue among cultures and civilizations in its mid-term strategy for the years 2002-2007.

The events we witness today highlight the ever-increasing need for dialogue among all cultures of the world. In the beginning of the third millennium, clashes and antagonisms are no less acute than before, and this situation has had some irremediable cultural effects. Disastrous as they are, these events can give rise to a general consciousness of the importance of the preservations not only of cultures but the cultural heritage existing in different parts of the world as part of our common cultural heritage. These unfortunate events can also serve as a starting point for further reflections on the nature of culture and civilizations, the conditions of coexistence among different cultures and civilization, and the prominent role dialogue can play to achieve these ends.

I am confident that this conference will provide a valuable occasion for highly qualified reflections on the nature and necessary conditions of dialogue among civilizations. A brief look at the subjects to be debated during the conference shows that sufficient attention has been paid to the multidisciplinary character of the issue. Themes such as identity and otherness are not exclusively philosophical questions to be dealt with only by professional philosophers. In fact, the theoretical problem of defining identity in such a way that it does not lead to exclusion and discrimination is related to some more urgent practical issues: for example, how we can begin a real dialogue while we are far from a wholly inclusive concept of humanity, and both at national and international levels, discrimination and exclusion are still facts of everyday life? How can we ignore the fact that even our contemporary world has its own ways to draw barriers between different human groups, and the sometimes political imperialistic goals are pursued through drawing a wholly negative picture of other cultures and civilizations? How can we achieve a real dialogue among civilizations if science and technology remain exclusively in the hands of some powerful sectors of humanity?

On a more theoretical level, one of the main questions of many individual thinkers as well as many cultures and civilizations of the world is how to preserve their identity, without falling into isolationism and introversion, and how to begin a dialogue with others without losing their own identity. That is why a more inclusive concept of identity is a necessary condition for any kind of dialogue.

Nevertheless, dialogue is also conditioned by the realities of the world we live in. In a world divided into the privileged and the unprivileged (and this division is not limited to any specific aspect of life) one of the main obstacles which stand in the way of dialogue is a two-fold fear. On one hand, some of those who are in an unprivileged situation are afraid to enter into dialogue, either because they do not see any necessity for it, or out of fear of the loss of their privileges.

These problems show that the issue of dialogue and the concept of justice cannot be separated. Thus our efforts to establish a fruitful dialogue between cultures and civilizations should be accompanied by a parallel effort to build a world based on justice and true equality between all of its members.

The unique light of the sun in the sky,
Becomes a hundred lights in the court yards.
But, when walls are removed,
There will be no light but one.

  Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

  I wish you best success.

Seyyed Mohammad Khatami
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
................................................................................................................................................

Dr. Seyyed Ataollah Mohajerani’s Address to the Conference:
........................................................................................................................


Diverse Pluralistic Identities and Common Universal Values

First of all, on behalf of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, I would like to express my gratitude to His Excellency Valdas Adamkus President of the Republic of Lithuania, and Koichiro Matsuura, Director General of UNESCO for convening this prestigious event.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to have dialogue with you on diverse pluralistic identities and common values in this globalizing world.

History of civilizations and nations is replete with cultural interactions. These interactions take place without undermining the diverse and pluralistic identity of nations. The materialistic and moral achievements of cultures blended and merged without prejudicing the independent identity of civilizations. We can even claim that through these mutually beneficial interactions the unique identity of each nation was strengthened. This blending and melting of different cultures creates the ground for comparison. It is through this comparison that elements particular to each culture and ethnic grouping are identified. Iran is a good example and is a microcosm of diverse pluralistic identities and common universal values. In Iran, for centuries diverse ethnicities with different dialects, languages, traditions, etc. lived side by side. This concord and peaceful co-existence have taken place despite the fact that Iran has its own common identity that has saved as a solid foundation on which the civilization and culture of our nation is built. These also have always existed as a strong and enduring attachment to this shared national identity.

History of Iran shows that tolerance and a sense of mutual accommodation, that have evolved in Iran among different ethnic groups, can be the key to resolving the problems of a world moving ahead at a dazzling speed toward uniformity and homogeneity. Today, the major challenge that faces us all is how to manage and promote diversity as a positive force. The Iranian culture of ethnic co-existence and tolerance provides us with a great paradigm and a lesson in helping us with the rapid pace of globalization and protecting us against its pitfalls.

In most cases, cultural homogeneity, especially with regard to language and religion, brings about zealous and excessive nationalistic and ethnic tendencies that lead by the slightest provocation, to xenophobia, intolerance, aggrandizement of one’s cultural heritage, and humiliation of values, traditions and cultures of others. Consequently, the level of tolerance begins to decline and fastest tendencies develop. Iran has had a diametrically different experience.

The culture of ethnic coexistence, acceptance of common Iranian identity in the face of pluralistic identities, and building up the Iranian civilization on the contribution and shared references of each ethnic community, are all indebted to the vividly visible tolerance existing here down the centuries. This diversity and pluralism that have shaped the culture of our nation have made Iran a melting pot for those that occupied Iran, absorbing them into Iranian culture and civilization with the passage of time.

Another example of unity in diversity is the religion of Islam. For many centuries and during Islamic Caliphate, from China to North Africa and Central Europe, Islam was a homogenous system that fostered peace, concord and prosperity.

The points mentioned above can be better understood against the backdrop of the perils stemming from globalization. Although the process of globalization apparently moves toward creation of a single global market, it is based on the immense advances in communications and satellites technology. The “satellite culture” has made much more probable the threat of global homogeneity during our lifetime. This threat is so real that many scholars openly speak of death of languages and indigenous cultures. Along with this growing homogeneity, individualism is seriously on the rise, and tolerance of others is fast disappearing. Humanity seams to be entering a more dangerous era of racial and ethnic animosity and civil wars. Globalization is also polarizing nations into small minority of super wealthy and poor masses. Under this circumstances dialogue will be impossible.

  Ladies and Gentlemen,

There are numerous challenges facing mankind. Preserving common values, creating new common universal values and emphasizing on the plurality of identities while protecting the oneness of human family are bare imperatives to reduce the pace and gravity of deleterious consequences of globalization. We must turn “satellite technology” around and make it a positive force for preservation of pluralistic cultural values and identities. Through mass communication with its vast global network we can rediscover and familiarize others with diverse cultures and collective identities. This will help us to protect cultural identity in face of the homogenizing forces of modern technological civilization. Our aim must be to contribute to the pluralism of the entire planet as well as to persistence of plural identities in each nation. When seeing the richness in cultural diversity and collective identities, the peoples of the world would refrain from thinking of their own culture, values and collective identity in absolute terms, and social tolerance and respect for others will thrive. Our aim must also be to combat the culture of exclusion, and the remaining traces of cultures of obscurantism, absolution and all forms of intolerance.

Through this mass communication technology we must also strive to strengthen and institutionalize values that are shared by all civilizations and cultures. There are serious implications and threats from the process of globalizations, but one must not overlook its potential benefits. Never in the history of humanity have we been so close to each pother. Millions of people from all corners of the world can watch the same television program at the same time. The conditions have never been so right for launching programs for mass education and public awareness at a global level. There are also very serious threats facing mankind. But we have the tools, because of advancement in technology, to overcome these challenges. In these master plans for public awareness, introduction of diverse cultures, analysis of the components of each culture and revealing the secrets for their endurance and survival, introducing the identity of ethnic groups and indigenous cultures and discovering our shared values should figure prominently. These shared values relate to compassion for your fellowmen, unity of human family, and other great human attributes. We must all realize that despite the differing and at time contradictory appearance of cultural elements, deep down they are all identical. We must also not forget that in the heart of all cultural and civilizational elements lies the important principle of human essence.

The importance of the institution of family, procreation, the love for our off springs, preserving our natural world, knowing the capacity of ecosystem and their sustainability, inter-relationship of all components of the ecosystem and the interdependence of all humanity and our shared responsibility in protecting the global environment are just a few of the values shared by all humanity. Better education, enhancement of collective wisdom, understanding the importance of tolerance, sympathy and indulgence for the views of others are the attributes that pave the way for true unity of humanity while preserving plurality. No doubt, tolerance is the key to the problem. This is an issue that we ought to take up in our meetings. We must also try true manifestations of tolerance in indigenous cultures and discover common ground and elements that can be translated into shared universal values.

I thank you very much, and wish you the best of success.

....................................................................................................................................................................................

Contact
.....................

Mr. Egdūnas Račius
Co-ordinator of the Conference
E-mail:
egdunas@centras.lt
Tel.: (370) 2-618584, 89-83807
Fax: (370) 2-623120
Ms. Dalia Sukackienė
E-mail:
dalisu@president.lt
Tel.: (370) 2-664081
Fax: (370) 2-226433