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Aladdin Project – Building bridges of knowledge between Jews and Muslims

»Our joint mission is creating a better future; a future of peace and harmony between the Christian, the Jewish and the Muslim world.« Event of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the French National Assembly and the Aladdin Project in Paris. Keynote Address by former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder:

»Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,  It is not just a pleasure, but also an honour for me to warmly welcome the distinguished guests and thank you for your presence.  On behalf of the Patrons of the Aladdin Project I would like to express my sincere thanks to His Excellency ‑ Parliament Speaker ‑ Mr. Bartolone for hosting the Gala dinner of the Aladdin Project for the second year in a row in this magnificent hall.  And I am particularly pleased that the “2014 Aladdin Award for the Dialogue of Cultures” goes to Professor Nasser David Khalili.  In the person of Professor Khalili, we are honouring a truly remarkable leader in reaching out boldly across cultural and religious divides and proving that, as he has said himself, what we have in common is far greater than what divides us.  He is the perfect laureate for the Aladdin Award for the Dialogue of Cultures.  Because the overarching aim of the Aladdin project is to promote greater mutual knowledge among peoples of different cultures and religions, particularly Jews and Muslims.

One essential element of co‑operative peace politics is to promote understanding between different cultures.  We hear voices time and again around the world talking about an impending “Clash of Civilisations”.  We must decidedly reject such misguided theories.  The talk of “a Clash of Civilisations” does nothing but fuel extremism.  We would be far better advised to emphasize the values and rights that all human beings have in common.  To point to the values we all share and which therefore unite us, such as the desire to live in peace and in an atmosphere of tolerance and justice.  We want to build bridges between our cultures. The Aladdin project promotes mutual knowledge in order to bring about changes in attitudes and perceptions and develop a culture of peace and tolerance.  To achieve these goals, the project has developed a strategy that combines educational and cultural projects with public events.  In the five years since the Aladdin project was launched under the patronage of UNESCO ‑ and with the great engagement of distinguished patrons ‑ distinctive progress was made.  In addition to the projects currently being developed, some of the key achievements include:  A Multilingual website in six languages and an online library,  the presentation of Claude Lanzmann’s documentary film SHOAH for Turkish and Iranian audiences,  15 Conferences in North Africa and the Middle East from Rabat to Baghdad and Abu-Dhabi,  a training and networking program for young leaders in the Euro-Mediterranean region,  an International seminar on Holocaust education and genocide prevention in Istanbul and last but not least  an Historic Visit of Peace and Memory to the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial. It was an unforgettable experience, amid the horrifying relics of gas chambers and crematoria, at the epicenter of the greatest catastrophe ever perpetrated by man against man, to listen to the prayers of the Chief Rabbi, the Cardinal and the Grand Mufti in commemoration of the men, women and children who perished there.

I think that the Aladdin project can contribute to making Europe and the world a more tolerant place, where people from different cultures can live together in peace and harmony.  A very serious threat everywhere, but particularly in Europe today, arises from political extremism.  We can never take for granted enlightened, free and peaceful tolerant societies. We have to fight for this freedom every year, every day.  We should shield ourselves from the false belief that belonging to a nation or culture, however advanced and civilized, can make us immune to human imperfection and temptation.  We must therefore repeatedly take a critical look at our past and present and teach ourselves to practise active tolerance, peaceful settlement of conflicts, respect for all people and their dignity.  Tolerance towards those who have a different outlook, a different faith or creed, an acceptance of diversity and difference: that is the cultural basis of European integration.  A commitment to be stronger when united and to build this cohesion on democratic values: that is the political cement of European integration.  Europe is not just a commitment to but the daily practice of pluralism. Living together in multicultural societies cannot be conflict-free, and it does not have to be conflict-free either.  But what is essential is that these conflicts are resolved through peaceful dialogue.  At a time of heated and sometimes turbulent debate, that, I believe, is extremely important to emphasize.  We must not allow a climate to develop in which anything that is different is immediately regarded as threatening.  It was a tremendous advance for us in Europe when we learnt to recognize those we perceive as different as our equals, a principle we are now working to see respected also in the wider world.

Our joint mission is creating a better future – a future of peace and harmony between the Christian, the Jewish and the Muslim world.  We should prevent cultural clashes; while at the same time preserving our values.  In this context the need for education and more concrete projects to overcome these challenges is very important.  Changes in perception can only come about through a long-term strategy focusing on education, diffusion of knowledge, but also projects which encourage meetings and collaboration between East and West, North and South.  In that sense, the Euro-Mediterranean youth training and networking program currently being developed by the Aladdin Project is a promising initiative.

A better future will only be possible without anti-semitism and racism, without injustice and violence.  That is why Europe needs a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism and racism, particularly in that cradle of integration, our schools.  The dialogue between cultures and religions helps us to move towards a goal that we all share, namely, to live in a world of peace and freedom.  The Aladdin project works for respectful, humane and, above all, peaceful relations within and between our societies.  We want people of diverse origins, different cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds to be able to share a common future and enjoy a life in peace and dignity.  The more we know about the diversity of cultures and respect other religions, the more we develop a feeling of tolerance.  And, I am firmly convinced, that this knowledge can help to bring people together and create the basis for a better future.Understanding only grows when we meet one another and develop a common interest.  This is the reason why we must help the Aladdin Project to achieve its goals, and thank you for doing that. Merci beaucoup!«

 

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