Spain’s Contribution to Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue and Tolerance with Ambassador Belen Alfaro

Spain’s Ambassador at large to UN Alliance for Civilizations Mrs. Belen Alfaro spoke about Spain’s contribution to intercultural and interreligious dialogue and tolerance on May 13, 2014 at 12 pm.

 

Spain’s great history tells us that in the Middle Ages, under the Caliphate of Córdoba, al-Andalus was a beacon of learning, and the city of Córdoba became one of the leading cultural and economic centers in both the Mediterranean Basin and the Islamic world. Mediterranean trade and cultural exchange flourished in the largest, richest and most sophisticated city in Western Europe, Córdoba. Rule under these kingdoms saw a rise in cultural exchange and cooperation between Muslims and Christians, with Christians and Jews considered as protected people who enjoyed their “internal autonomy”. Muslims imported a rich intellectual tradition from the Middle East and North Africa. Muslim and Jewish scholars played an important part in reviving and expanding classical Greek learning in Western Europe.This civilizations-long heritage of Spain was a unique one.

Fast-forwarding to the 21st Century, mutual suspicion, fear and misunderstanding between Islamic and Western societies have increased since the beginning of the new millennium. The heightened instability of coexistence between these groups of people with divergent backgrounds has led to exploitation by extremists throughout the world: the severest form of this being violent acts of terrorism. It has been the opinion of many political leaders that efforts should be made to reach a common ground between diverse ethnic and religious groups based on the tolerance, understanding, and respect of the fundamental set of values and beliefs of each group. In this way, and by the attempt to quell “extremism”, a comprehensive coalition was established to work toward a peaceful coexistence between diverse groups around the world, and thereby support international stability. Within this context, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) was established in 2005, at the political initiative of Mr. Kofi Anan, former UN Secretary General and co-sponsored by the Spanish and Turkish Governments,which continue to grow stronger.

Ambassador-at-large for the Alliance of Civilizations of the United Nations, Belen Alfaro, will talk about Spain`s history through the contributions to the intercultural and interfaith dialogue and from UNAOC initiative perspective, which seeks to galvanize international action against extremism through the forging of international, intercultural and interreligious dialogue and cooperation. Four priority areas for action, namely, education, youth, migration,media,will be of importance in her talk with the recommendations identified by the High-Level Group (HLG) consisting of 20 eminent persons drawn from policy making, academia, civil society, religious leadership, and the media, whom represent a full range of religions and civilizations.

BELEN ALFARO is the Ambassador-at-large for the Alliance of Civilizations of the United Nations since July 2011. She was the Minister Counsellor at the Mission of Spain to the United Nations in New York from 2006 to 2011. She served as the Political Coordinator and Middle East, Iraq, Northern Africa and Western Sahara issues. Ambassador Alfaro also served as the Senior Counsellor at the Directorate General for Foreign Policy with the Middle East and Mediterranean countries from 2004 to 2006. She is a member of the Spanish Diplomatic Service at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Spain since 1991.

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