When ideological battles are being waged in the streets, and on social media each day, one gets the impression that everyone wants their voice heard but few are willing to listen. There are debates galore, with a myriad voices fighting for space, but the absence of a genuine dialogue is conspicuously felt.
It is, therefore, encouraging to know that May 21 has been designated as the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. That sounds like a mouthful but it indicates the broad themes around which conflicts tend to emerge and escalate. Cultural diversity is now being perceived as a threat by dictatorial regimes as well as democratic governments, though one would expect the former to resist majoritarianism and actively promote pluralism. Narratives of development are being rigorously questioned because large groups have been excluded from the gains that have materialized.
In order to observe this day in a meaningful manner, Prajnya brings you a blog symposium on the theme of cultural diversity. We invited people who are either academic or practitioner experts to write for us based on their engagement with cultural diversity. Over the next week, we will publish thoughtfully written blog posts by individuals from various fields including ethnographic research, street photography, school education, law, anti-nuclear activism, youth leadership, and more. We hope that the symposium will serve as a learning resource not only for peace educators but a wider community of readers.
According to the United Nations, three-quarters of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension. We think that is crucial to strengthen dialogue about bridging gaps between cultures not only to serve economic and strategic interests but also to build empathy, encourage inter-faith understanding, and nurture friendships that actively resist bigotry. Here is a copy of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, which is a statement worth revisiting. Here are some notes from the Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which will give you much food for thought.
We have curated this symposium to have writers contribute pieces that reflect a mix of the personal and the professional. The thought behind this was to merge the abstract plane of ideas with the messy reality of lived experiences because real transformation, if any, needs to begin with oneself. We hope that our blog symposium encourages you to reflect on your own place in the world, and gets you to rethink choices and practical strategies as you work towards negotiating, appreciating and embracing cultural diversity.