General Assembly president urges unity among cultures

11 May 2007 –

Closing a major conference today at United Nations Headquarters in New York, General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa called on the peoples of the world to overcome their mutual indifference to each other to solve grave global problems.

“As President of the General Assembly, I have the opportunity to closely observe the misery that millions of humans suffer from in the face of sometimes fatal indifference,” Sheikha Haya said at the end of a two-day programme on the co-existence of cultures.

“I also had the opportunity to learn the means by which nations, if they unite as one, could overcome difficulties regardless of their size and type,” she added.

Entitled Civilizations and the Challenges for Peace: Obstacles and Opportunities, the programme featured prominent academics, commentators and political leaders exploring causes and solutions for tensions between different groups.

During the programme, four panel discussions took place, entitled: “Respect for cultural diversity is a prerequisite for dialogue,” “Religion in Contemporary Society,” “The responsibility of the media,” and “Civilizations and the challenge for global peace and security.”

In addition, a roundtable on the arts asked the question, “How can the UN better use the arts in further developing strategies to bridge the gap between cultures?”

During the discussions, most delegates agreed that current world tensions involved many more factors than religion, with many mentioning political and economic inequality in particular.

Some of the panellists suggested ways that religion could help people solve their problems peacefully. Author Karen Armstrong, for example, proposed that religious leaders turn their focus to the core value of compassion, such as that expressed by the Golden Rule, which is common to major religions.

Sheikha Haya and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the programme yesterday, with both officials calling on religious figures, the media, and individuals to promote respect for diversity.

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