"We need a new humanism rooted in human rights, dignity and respect for diversity”
On 1 July, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, and internationally renowned scholar on comparative religions Karen Armstrong FRSL met in conversation at the Royal Opera House in London, to discuss religion and conflict in the world today.
The event was sponsored by the Maimonides Interfaith Foundation, a partner of UNESCO, and the Welsh National Opera.
The conversation took place in the presence of Professor Nasser David Khalili, President and Founder of the Maimonides Foundation and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, and by Mr. James Bridge, Secretary-General of the UK National Commission to UNESCO, and was attended by some 100 people.
The session entitled “Why the world needs compassion now” is part of the ‘One World, Many Faiths Project’ of the Welsh Opera and the Maimonides Interfaith Foundation.
Highlighting the importance of tolerance and the need for a new humanism centered on respect for human dignity, the Director-General said “everyday tells us it is not enough to communicate, we must connect. It is not enough to exchange, we must share.”
“We are witnessing times of incredible opportunities to connect, while at the same time, the world is becoming ever more fragmented and fragile. UNESCO works at the forefront of providing the means to achieve greater social justice and equity through education, the sciencesn communication and information, and culture,” declared Irina Bokova.
Echoing this message, Karen Armstrong spoke about “the need for greater compassion as a global imperative as a result of greater interconnectedness; We have to find a way to feel for the other and understand each other since we cannot live without the other. Our histories are also connected and that is why we have to bear responsibility one towards the other”.
Calling for a new humanism in a world of deepening interdependence, the Director-General underlined the need to teach tolerance and greater understanding on the benches of schools, through teaching about protection and respect for cultural heritage, deepening tolerance and solidarity through historical understanding -- and to take all this forward by supporting local content on new platforms for exchange and joint action."
Karen Armstrong stressed the damages that humiliation of one’s culture or of a people can bring, comparing this with the the impact of poverty.
Irina Bokova highlighted the importance of the sustainable development goals agenda as one that should uphold humanistic values, such as cultural diversity, living together, forging a new cultural literacy, advancing gender equality and promoting new forms of global citizenship.
“Taking this forward requires a new vision of tolerance”, said the Director-General. “Looking at what bounds humanity together is the essence of UNESCO’s work to craft new forms of solidarity… starting from the equal dignity of every woman and man, from the recognition that identities are multiple and fluid, from diversity as a force for renewal.”
This conversation is part of the One World, Many Faiths Project, a series of interactive events exploring faith and culture in today’s society. The series take place in Cardiff, Hay-on-Wye, Birmingham and London and will run alongside Welsh National Opera’s Summer Season of operas, which fall under the theme of faith.
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