Conflicts arising from diversity are one of the major threats to world peace, and these have sprouted across the globe in Germany, New Zealand, Poland, South Korea, the USA, among other countries.
The conflicts can be cultural, religious or ethnic, but it is a manifestation of a new form of racism which should be plucked in the bud before it spreads.
In Africa too, southern Africa especially, this new form of racism has been seen in xenophobic attacks against citizens of other countries, especially in South Africa.
Millions of Africans from Somalia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Mozambique and other countries have borne the brunt of attacks against them from Africans of South African origin – their only crime – being of a different ethnic background than their hosts.
“This ‘new’ racism represents a more subtle and even de-personalized prejudice against persons of colour, however, it is still prejudice,” said Prof. Gordon Welty, Wright State University.
This “New” racism represents an increasing intolerance towards cultural and ethnic diversity. Ours is a multicultural and multinational society, one with great diversity.”
Furthermore, Craig Considine, a Rice University sociologist, mentions in his book that Islamophobia represents a form of racism mixed with cultural intolerance as a whole, rather than simple intolerance of Muslims and Islam.
To address this problem, on 20 December 2002, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the 21st of May as the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development aiming to overcome ethnic conflicts and confrontation by enhancing our acceptance of different cultures Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO said in his second anniversary address: “Since cultural diversity is a basic human right, to promote it is to counter stereotypes and cultural fundamentalism.”
He stressed the importance of cultural diversity for dialogue, development, and the promotion of peace.
In celebration of the World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW), an interfaith dialogue was hosted by an international peace NGO, Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL), which is registered under UNECOSOC. During February 5th to 26th, ‘’Activities for the Eradication of Acts of Religious Discrimination’’ was the topic discussed at 61 Cities in 42 countries around the world.
For this dialogue, more than 1,700 religious leaders, social activists, and youth participated and discussed causes and resolutions of the discrimination problem.
UNESCO has mentioned that three-quarters of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension.
Ms. Irina Bokova, the former UNESCO Director-General, said in his 2017 commemorative speech: “Today is an opportunity for us all to celebrate the tremendous benefits of cultural diversity, including humanity’s rich intangible heritage, and to reaffirm our commitment to building a more peaceful world, founded on the values of mutual understanding and intercultural dialogue,” and he also highlighted the connection between peace and cultural diversity.
Mrs. Dilnaz Billimoria, a Zoroastrianism representative who participated in the event in Australia, said: “It is very important to allow people to practice their faith in peace and freedom, with our faith, we link traditions, cultures, values, food, dress, relationships, economic status, etc. People have to realize that it culminates in forming the society we live in.”
According to the WIHW (2018) participation report, cases of religious discrimination increased by 133% from 2011 to 2016 in America, with 1,400 documented cases of attacks on religion (source: First Liberty Institute, 2017). Countries in Europe, in comparison with other countries, had higher incidents of religious discrimination in 2015, where 76% of Jews and 71% of Muslims experienced religious harassment (source: Pew Research Center, 2015).
The September 18th World Alliance Religions’ Peace (WARP) Summit held annually since 2014, acknowledges diversities and transcends the boundaries of religions, nationalities, races, and culture where legal experts, religious leaders, press, and leaders of youth and women’s organizations for peace participate.
Gustaf Moller, Chairman, The Finnish Arbitration Association mentioned about DPCW (the Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War), which as proclaimed as a legal instrument to prevent war, “It was drafted with the intention of promoting the respect of fundamental human rights and international law. The core values [of the DPCW] are freedom, justice, peace, security, intergenerational solidarity, the promotion of social progress and standards of life, and tolerance and respect in the context of religious beliefs and traditions. As the root causes of conflict have become increasingly complex and multidimensional, the Declaration serves as a framework of robust, global infrastructure built by sovereign States on a foundation of tolerance, mutual understanding, and dialogue developed to resist conflict.”
“This DPCW which has 10 articles and 38 clauses has the power to stop the war and also a practical method to make peace in the world. Specifically, Article 8 [Freedom of religion] and 9 [Religion, ethnic identity and peace] are about fostering religious peace and peaceful coexistence,” said Jean Claude Rubuguza, Bishop of Evangelical Rock Spiritual Church as he gave the message for the 2nd anniversary of the proclamation of the DPCW.
HWPL holds ‘Dialogue of Scriptures’ at 218 WARP Offices in 126 countries (as of April 2018) to implement Articles 8 and 9 of the DPCW.
Ms. Carolyn Medel-Añonuevo, Deputy Director of UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), said: “In societies or countries where many cultures exist, we must move toward interculturalism in which we communicate with respect for diversity.”
She emphasized that immigrants and the host country should try to learn and understand each other’s cultures, emphasizing the importance of international understanding through education, not only regarding Europe but also the world’s mainstream cultures.