There is no doubt that art and culture are universal expressions, with no frontiers between cultures and social groups, hence they are a perfect bridge for endorsing cultural dialogue. Europe with its expansion and migration is endowed with many individual identities which add to its rich diversity and it is creating new dialogue between people.
In 2008, the European Union designated the year for inter-cultural dialogue, supporting various activities in raising awareness of the idea of inter-cultural dialogue. Among them was the Platform for Inter-cultural Dialogue with the function of bringing together people from fields of culture, education, youth and social work groups on minority rights, anti-discrimination and human rights. It has held several meetings for its members, taking place in Brussels, Slovenia, Italy, and Sweden.
Being an artist, a writer, and involved in an art foundation, I have attended for some of these meetings, the last of which was on the 8th of June, in Brussels. Recently, the Platform conducted research into the EU Culture programme and found that inter-cultural dialogue has different meanings to many people. For some Europeans, inter-cultural dialogue is a concept for peace among nations, while for others, it is a tool for improving internal security and relations between majority and minority groups, enhancing cultural cooperation and cultural diplomacy.
Inter-cultural dialogue can be defined as dialogue about meanings and values; about how people make sense of their experience in the world. Europe has always been home to a diverse range of people, each with their own cultures and ways of interpreting their world. Before the two World Wars, ethnic and cultural diversity existed in perfect harmony where individuals with different faith and culture lived side by side.
This all passed into oblivion with the occurrence of genocide and ethnic cleansing, aiming to create the illusion of national homogeneity. Today, Europe includes people with cultural roots in other continents, like Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Inter-cultural dialogue has become the norm and is even more necessary. To add with this concept, is the democratic recognition of the many marginalised cultures with European roots. These also include national minorities, Roma people, and social groups such as disabled, gay or lesbian people.
After the meeting in June 2009 the Platform worked on a program of practice exchanges which involved focusing on cultural institutions and the situations of migrants. The Platform in its exchange programs is aiming to involve people from different cultures as equal participants, whilst adopting a clear agreed terms of reference for the meeting. It is also focusing on specific issues where disagreement exists, recognising the legitimacy of people’s differences, accepting the possibility of change whist providing the necessary support to enable all participants to engage on equal terms and to reflect the obligations of the European Union. Together these are all good practices towards more intercultural dialogue which is ever becoming more necessary in today’s Europe.
So, let us work together to develop a Europe without frontiers.
Image Source: callumalden on Flickr.