|Exploring Intercultural Dialogue|
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There is no accepted definition for Intercultural Dialogue. The term is an adaptation from other terms, all of which remain current, such as multiculturalism, social cohesion and assimilation. The best formulation at the moment is perhaps the terminology used by the Council of Europe in its White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue, which states:
‘Intercultural Dialogue is understood as an open and respectful exchange of views between individuals and groups with different ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds and heritage’.
Note that this definition is wide enough to encompass almost all kinds of exchange between culturally distinct groups and individuals while setting down no priorities with regard to any of them.
Why is the issue of intercultural dialogue high on the European political agenda today?
Mainly because of the increasingly pressing question of the ‘meeting of cultures’; provoked both by the movement of people and by the increasingly porous nature of our national identities. We are living through an osmosis of cultures facilitated by travel, technology and the interconnectedness of our contemporary economies and cultures.
The United States has often been characterised as the world’s melting pot, but the terms of the debate in Europe are somewhat different. Historically the European experience has been of rich cultures learning (or not) to live with each other, as different political, religious, linguistic and cultural experiences rub up against each other in limited geographical spaces…less of a cultural melting pot and more of a cultural buffet as it were! Much of Europe’s astonishing richness comes form the meeting of these cultural realities, but also, sadly, some the most unfortunate and aggressive moments in world history. Europe is now a peaceful, economically successful and increasingly politically integrated environment. The challenge of ‘the other’ has not gone away however. If anything, with each passing enlargement, with each year’s growing awareness of our interdependence, the challenges that face Europe grow.
Intercultural Dialogue is increasingly seen as one of the ways to promote mutual understanding, better living together and an active sense of European citizenship and belonging.
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