UNESCO Chief Urges Dialogue of Cultures, Education to Counter Violent Extremism

World | December 16, 2015, Wednesday // 19:54
Bulgaria: UNESCO Chief Urges Dialogue of Cultures, Education to Counter Violent Extremism (L-R) UNESCO chief Irina Bokova, Solomon Passy, head of Atlantic Club of Bulgaria; Bill Richardson, ex-U.S. envoy to the UN; Aleksander Kwasniewski, former President of Poland, at conference on countering violent extremism, Sofia, Dec.16, 2015. BGNES

The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq by violent extremists is a phenomenon that goes beyond the two countries’ borders and requires a battle for the hearts and minds of the people to eradicate, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said on Wednesday.

"We need to link very closely security issues, the resolution of conflicts and the humanitarian crisis with the cultural heritage. It’s obvious that the problems of extremism require much more education to address,” Bokova told reporters on the sidelines of an international conference in Sofia, Bulgaria on Wednesday.

"This is a phenomenon that can occur in different forms in different countries. The battle against it can be won only by winning the hearts and minds of people, especially young people,” Bokova said, according to BGNES.

Bokova is taking part in the conference “Countering Violent Extremism: New Security Agenda for Education and Culture”, co-organized by UNESCO and the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria. The event is looking into the perspectives for countering violent extremism through the protection of cultural heritage and diversity, as well as educational initiatives.

The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria by religious militants is part of extremism that erodes many societies, it’s not an ordinary security problem, Bokova said.

The response to fear inspired by extremists must be civic engagement and competence for dialogue between different cultures, UNESCO Director-General said.

"I come from Paris where UNESCO headquarters is. We have seen the brutal nature of this threat. These barbaric acts are part of a wave of violence and extremism,” Bokova said at the conference, referring to the November 13 attacks in Paris. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks that killed 130 people.

Bokova recalled that many national landmarks in Syria have been destroyed by fighting, including the old districts of Damascus.

Culture has always been a casualty of war but what we see today is something new; the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage, systematic attacks on cultural diversity constitute a war crime, as they destroy the very identity and fabric of society, Bokova said, according to BGNES.

No one was born extremist, people becomes extremists, which highlights the need to teach people not to hate but to live in peace, Bokova said.

“We have to fight against ignorance. UNESCO believes that education will help overcome today’s crisis. In Iraq and Syria, UNESCO invests in the education of young people and refugees.”

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Tags: UNESCO, Bokova, sofia, Bulgaria, violent extremism, conference, cultural heritage, Syria, Iraq, Destruction, Damascus, Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, attacks

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