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Brussels, 11 November 2008

Intercultural Dialogue: a Challenge for faiths and convictions?

Religious beliefs, philosophies and convictions are an integral part of cultural diversity which, through dialogue, can enrich our societies and contribute to individual fulfilment. But in our increasingly diverse cultural environments, the broad spectrum of faiths, beliefs and convictions can lead to misconceptions and fears. In the worst cases, people suffer the consequences of others' prejudice in the form of discrimination due to their conviction or religious belief. Around 100 participants are expected at a conference organised today by the European Commission in the framework of the 2008 European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, and as a follow-up to the 2007 European Year of Equal Opportunities for All.

The seminar will bring together project coordinators, policy makers, experts in the fields of education and the media, as well as representatives of religious and secular groups active in the field of intercultural dialogue in order to learn from their practical experiences and best practices and identify ways to improve the situation where required. The discussion will take place in the Berlaymont building, Schuman Room.

Three working sessions will focus on challenges for education, the media, and dialogue between faiths and convictions. Issues for debate include:

  • How well equipped are European education systems to teach an ethnically diverse population with differing faiths and convictions? How can education equip learners with "intercultural competences"?
  • The media must exercise their freedom of expression responsibly.
  • Against the background of a financial crisis sometimes portrayed as a "crisis of values", can dialogue between believers and non-believers support solidarity and the search for common values?

The seminar will also benefit from the music and songs of Voices of Peace, a Jewish-Arab youth choir singing in Hebrew, Arabic and English. The choir is an extraordinary example of artistic partnership based on respect and openness and whose work spreads a message of cultural richness and peace.

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