Dáil Éireann - Volume 544 - 22 November, 2001
Other Questions. - Dialogue Among Civilisations.
Mr. S. Ryan Mr. S. Ryan
12. Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will consider an initiative by the Government to institute an international conference on Islam and the west, the cultural back ground, current perceptions and distortions and the need to develop an accurate and deeper understanding of cultural diversity as a contribution to world peace; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29253/01]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Mr. Cowen: An international initiative along the lines outlined by the Deputy already exists. The UN-sponsored Dialogue Among Civilisations was established in 1998 in order to foster dialogue between different cultures and to promote understanding and tolerance as a means to combat hostility and confrontation. The relationship between Islam and the West is, of course, a particular focus of this dialogue.
The UN has declared 2001 as the International Year of Dialogue Among Civilisations and, as part of this initiative, the UN established a group of eminent persons to prepare a contribution to a special debate of the United Nations General Assembly. That debate took place in New York on 8 and 9 November. The General Assembly welcomed the report of the group of eminent persons entitled Crossing the Divide: Dialogue among Civilisations, and adopted a resolution containing a global agenda for action by governments, international organisations and civil society.
Ireland has been an active participant in the initiative. We have assisted in the work of the group of eminent persons, of which Deputy Spring was a member. Ireland hosted a meeting of the group in Dublin in May of this year. We strongly support its conclusions and the recommendations contained in the global agenda.
The follow-up to the attacks of 11 September and the fight against terrorism have helped to highlight the necessity for such a dialogue and, in particular, as stressed by the Deputy, between the West and Islam. Dialogue can and should include questioning and criticism where these are warranted. We need to build on shared values and seek to bridge differences where possible. Above all, neither side should portray the other in negative or hostile images. There should be no equating of terrorism with the Arab and Muslim world nor should Muslims see the West as a threat to their civilisation.
Dáil Éireann 544 Other Questions. Dialogue Among Civilisations.