Cross-cultural dialogues by Ariane de Rothschild Fellows on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean

6/8/2012 - Social Entrepreneurship

Between Thursday, May 31st and Sunday, June 3rd, the Fellows of the Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship organized almost simultaneous forums on cross cultural dialogue across the Atlantic, in New York and Paris. Both initiatives strengthened the involvement of the Ariane de Rothschild network in practical cross-cultural collaborations and spaces.

On the French side, the 4th edition of the Thursdays of Knowledge, which took place on May 31st, gathered about 50 people in the Library Alliance - Baron Edmond de Rothschild in Paris, for a unique opportunity to discuss with André Azoulay, President of the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for Dialogue between cultures, and adviser to the King of Morocco for 22 years.

The discussion addressed various aspects of cross-cultural dialogue: the historical relationships between the Jewish and Muslim communities in Arab countries; the cultural plurality inherent to Moroccan society; the political issues of the Arab Springs and the democratic transitions they triggered; the tendency to confrontation between Islam and Judaism; the strong resonance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in attempts to dialogue between such cultural communities worldwide; During a rich and constructive debate, guests highlighted the crucial role of the media, and the importance of education in an environment opened to dialogue between cultures.

Across the Atlantic, 3 days later, the first edition of “Beyond Dialogue Forum” was organized by American fellows at the Islamic Center of Central Jersey in South Brunswick, New Jersey, and was attended by 55 people. As the title suggests, the purpose of this Forum was to showcase the work of different individuals and organizations transforming dialogue into concrete actions.

Joyce Dubensky, CEO of Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, introduced some of the key initiatives of Tanenbaum and highlighted that religious differences are something to be celebrated and not feared. Dr. Hussain Rashid of Hofstra University and an Ariane de Rothschild Fellow captivated the audience with his dynamic presentation on the importance of multiple narratives in a multi-cultural society. Dr. Heba Musharraf of Princeton University presented an innovative linguistic analysis of how the Qur’an calls on us to be global citizens who are respectful to all religious and non-religious traditions. Susan Barnett who is a Journalist and media consultant spoke about Faiths for Safe Water project and focused on how different faith groups can work together to make a difference. The evening ended with a refreshing poetry recital by the Saudi Arabian poet Nimah Nawab.

Both events are meant to create new spaces for dialogue, question cross-cultural tensions, and promote intercultural innovations. As summarized by Andre Azoulay: "We must get rid of the harmful theory of the Clash of Civilizations and observe the Clash of ignorance instead".

The next Thursday of Knowledge will be held in September 2012, while the next Beyond Dialogue Forum is expected in October 2012.