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European Parliamentarians Discuss Role of Religion in Diplomacy

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A large number of heads of state, leading politicians, senior diplomats, academics and journalists the four-day annual conference of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (ICD) in Berlin, Dec. 17-21st, 2013. The conference, staged through the joint efforts of the ICD and The IMAN Foundation, discussed how a culture of peace could be built without resorting to arms in international policy.

Events included sessions on cultural diplomacy, strengthening international relations, improving democracy, building peace, and human rights.

MK Rabbi Nissim Zeev, Governor Gershon Mesika, Chief Rabbi Izhak Dayan, of the Conference of European Rabbis to the United Nations, Mr. Yossi Dagan and Mr. Shai Atias were among the speakers for the Israeli delegation at the session “Developing A Culture of Peace” at the European Union House.

At this event Dr. Oktar Babuna, attending as a representative of the Muslim writer and thinker Adnan Oktar, spoke on the subject of the positive role of religion in politics. Dr. Babuna emphasized that wars cannot be resolved by military means, and stressed the need for educational activities. He went on to speak of the need to emphasize values such as love, affection and brotherhood in the Abrahamic faiths, and said that problems cannot be solved without religion.

Mark C. Donfried, founder and director of the ICD, said in an interview to a Turkish television A9 TV: “When we talk about cultural diplomacy, we don’t mean in the traditional sense of ‘winning the hearts and minds of foreign audiences,’ or propaganda and persuasion. What we mean is how do we educate, enhance and sustain relationships, with the end goal not of persuading but building understanding and trust.”

“Cultural diplomacy won’t solve the problems,” Donfried added, “but, hopefully, it will bring us to the point where the relationships between our countries and our peoples are solid enough that we can really work together. We don’t have to agree, and we don’t have to like each other—although it’s better if we do—but we need to trust each other. Once trust is there, then we can get to work.”

When asked about the role of religion in establishing peace, Donfried said, “Religion is vitally important as cultural diplomacy develops in the coming centuries.”

He continued: “We really believe in the Institute that there are more moderates than there are extremists as we talk about Islam, as we talk about Christianity, as we talk about Judaism, every faith, so that the key, in our opinion, is to try to bring together the moderate religious leaders, together with the political leaders, together with civil society, by including all sides in a discussion like this.”

About the Author: Sinem Tezyapar is an executive producer on Turkish Television. She is a political and religious commentator and a peace activist. She can be reached on Facebook, and Twitter.


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