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Participants in The Hague Forum Emphasize the Importance of Education in Promoting a Culture of Peace

June 13, 2019

Participants in the World Forum for the Culture of Peace emphasized the importance of education in promoting a culture of dialogue and peace for global security. During the opening session of the forum, Malta's President George Vella highlighted the need to rediscover ways to maintain lasting peace in the world, pointing to conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Palestine, and tensions between the United States and Iran. Vella stated that "lasting peace means identifying the root causes of conflicts and violence and eliminating them," emphasizing the necessity of "establishing societies based on a culture of justice where everyone lives in peace and dignity."

He called for the enhancement of comprehensive education that recognizes the value of understanding and dialogue. Vella also announced his country's willingness to host the second edition of the forum next year, a proposition welcomed by Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation's chairman, Abdulaziz Albabtain, who is responsible for organizing the forum.

Representing the Dutch government, Joke Brandt, the Secretary-General of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, welcomed the leaders, decision-makers, scholars, and cultural figures gathered from around the world to participate in the international event, highlighting the symbolic importance of hosting the Forum at the Peace Palace in The Hague, a city that has earned the title of "City of Peace and Justice."

Brandt emphasized that The Hague rightfully deserves its title and noted that "The Hague is a city that advocates for the protection of cultural heritage." She pointed out the vital role that UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) plays in safeguarding global cultural heritage, cautioning that cultural heritage is still under threat due to conflicts. She emphasized that international collaboration is the foundation for protecting cultural heritage, making the hosting of this forum highly significant.

Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia addressed the fundamental question of whether there is a relationship between civilization, education, peace, and cultural heritage, highlighting that Europe found ways to cooperate peacefully after centuries of war.

He added that addressing emergencies requires understanding how to handle cultural heritage during times of conflict, calling for the protection of museums and cultural heritage in Yemen and Iraq, citing that Islamic religion sets high standards for cultural heritage preservation. He questioned, "How can we convince terrorist groups, like the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), to support cultural heritage values during conflicts, acknowledging that there is no immediate solution to this question?"

On a related note, Erik de Baedts, Director-General of Carnegie Peace Palace in the Netherlands, highlighted that "religion is a source of inspiration." He stated that the gathering is for the purpose of peace, and peace is achieved daily, providing an overview of the history of the Peace Palace.

Following the opening session, a discussion titled "Education and the Protection of Cultural Heritage" was held, chaired by former Bosnian President Haris Silajdžić, who called for more conferences of this nature. Silajdžić said, "We want peace on one side, and we have nuclear weapons on the other... How do we reconcile these contradictions, especially when we don't respect each other enough?" He emphasized the importance of proper education in addressing this problem, stating that conferences like this play a significant role in spreading understanding and peace.

In a related context, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Yousef Al-Othaimeen affirmed Islam's respect for all places of worship and called for cooperation with all international cultural organizations to protect cultural heritage.

Leoluca Orlando, the Mayor of Palermo, Italy, emphasized the Forum's message of "not fearing the other." Orlando noted that his city, Palermo, was once a stronghold for mafia groups, but efforts to promote a culture of peace have transformed it into Italy's fifth-largest tourist destination.

In his speech, the Secretary-General of the Arab Maghreb Union and former Tunisian Foreign Minister, Taieb Baccouche, stated that "heritage is part of human rights for individuals."

Peter Maurer, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), called on countries to respect cultural heritage during conflicts. The Forum is sponsored by Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation in collaboration with the Carnegie Peace Palace in the Netherlands, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Global Peace Foundation.

President of the International Peace Institute (IPI) in New York, Terry Rod Larsen, told the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), "The event has been a successful and highly beneficial endeavor in the pursuit of peace, particularly concerning the role of education and the protection and preservation of cultural heritage in war-torn countries."

Larsen, who chaired a session on enhancing a culture of peace through education at the forum, remarked, "Therefore, Albabtain Foundation has accomplished remarkable work." He characterized Kuwait and His Highness the Amir of the country, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, as "exemplary models in the quest for peace and reconciliation in the region and worldwide."

Larsen, a Norwegian diplomat, played a pivotal role in the 1990s negotiations that led to the Oslo Accords, the first agreements ever between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. He also served as the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and held the position of UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

Meanwhile, Kuwait's Ambassador to the Netherlands, Abdulrahman Al-Otaibi, stated that the message of the forum served as a "message of peace." He told KUNA that the Forum discussed ways to promote a culture of peace for the new generation globally, "regardless of religion, sect, or country."

He added, "We believe that harmony and peaceful coexistence among people are of utmost importance... It's time to seriously consider how to overcome hatred and violence so that people can live in peace."

French politician and Member of the European Parliament, Tokia Saifi, shared her impressions of the forum as being "very positive." She told KUNA, "The Forum was significant, especially considering everything happening in the world." Saifi, who delivered a speech at the Forum, added that the European Parliament is interested in promoting cross-cultural dialogue worldwide and is actively engaged in this direction.

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