Dr. Widad Akreyi, co-founder of Defend International, was featured in the Peace Now’s October Newsletter. The US-based Peace Now has initiated the biggest petition driven in history to have ONE BILLION voices demanding peace now. It seeks to unite one billion peace ambassadors to “generate a trans-formative force that creates powerful and lasting change for the betterment of humankind and future generations.” It’s worth noting that Dr. Akreyi is helping Peace Now to co-create peace and achieve global support from citizens around the world. In its Newsletter, Peace Now presents monthly thoughts from global peace leaders.
Defend International has supported a variety of initiatives to support intercultural dialogue and social inclusion, notably in collaborations with members of its network. We strive to promote grass-root activities, especially in sensitive areas in the MENA region. One core area of activity has been intercultural dialogue with representatives of different religions and faiths, as well as specific communities such as youth, women and other marginalized groups. In addition, an expert group has been formed to exchange practices on how to create spaces within non-profit cultural institutions where artists can meet across different cultures and artistic fields to foster meaningful interactions.
Building Global Peace In A Complex World:
Intercultural Dialogue and Social Inclusion
By Dr. Widad Akreyi
Current events and recent developments demonstrate how fragile peace is and how we must strive to uphold it. Too often, civil unrest and armed conflicts arise due to a chain of complex socio-economic, political, cultural and demographic causes. As peacemakers, we are continually reminded of the importance of intercultural dialogue and social inclusion in preventing, resolving and containing conflicts. To defuse tensions and empower our personal and professional lives, we need to become actors of intercultural dialogue and social inclusion.
By and large, building global peace requires intercultural- and interreligious dialogues, effective leadership, and strong educational values. In a world where polarization has reached an alarming level, we need to pay attention to the barriers faced and ways to overcome them. At a time when extremists are building barriers to communication, it is important to intensify efforts to build communication channels across cultures and religions. That is the most effective way to identify stereotyping and challenge ignorance and prejudice. As peacemakers, we encourage mutual respect and tolerance. Religious institutions may play a role in strengthening a culture of dialogue and conflict prevention. We need to be aware of the power that resides in true teamwork, and we must learn how universal human values can improve our understanding of the world, fostering informed assessment of cultural, social, economic, religious, political and environmental influences on human life.
Today, building global peace requires the global alleviation of poverty and social inequalities. Social exclusion and poverty are not just third world problems. Although the world becomes more and more connected through the use of the internet and mobile devices, often we face the devastating empirical reality of rising inequalities and social exclusion. Worldwide, certain populations such as women, persons with certain diseases or disabilities, homeless, slum dwellers, youth, older persons, refugees, migrants, and indigenous people are marginalized, disadvantaged by inequalities and excluded from their communities. These trends widen the gap between different groups of the populations and may even lead to further exclusion and sometimes to self-destructive tendencies. To avoid these tendencies we have to promote self-reflection and identify constructive strategies designed to raise the level of connectivity, social cohesion and harmony. By fostering positive cultural and social dynamics we can empower communities to be more involved in creating comprehensive and strategic partnerships with excluded groups, which ultimately will help vulnerable communities find healing, hope and new perspectives.
To date we have made some progress but we are aware that this is only the beginning of a very long and arduous journey. One of the steps that could be taken is to create a platform for an intercultural world or a global platform to tackle social exclusion and celebrate diversity. Such initiatives may encourage intercultural cooperation among countries that are in a period of post-conflict reconstruction, or extreme economic or political instability and, in a sense, trying to bring about justice, realization of human rights, community solidarity, inclusiveness and peace in the lives of their citizens. They may bring to light dimensions or elements that contribute in a recognizable way to the development of cultural and art-related networks and the idea of rediscovering the vital parts of our common heritage.
In conclusion, given that we live in a world where conflicts are increasingly associated with socio-economic disparities and cultural and/or religious differences, we should aim to promote dialogue among different cultures, religions and groups. We should never take peace for granted. We need to create linkages between different cultures and populations in order to transform lives without changing their spiritual identity. Intercultural dialogue in particular is an indispensable means that has the power to break down barriers, reverse negative misperceptions and transform individuals, thereby changing the world.