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globe logo     Caravan: Newsletter of the Alliance for a Responsible and United World
Number 3 May 1999

bulletFrom Readers
bulletThe Alliance in Motion
bulletAn Alliance? As Seen By
bulletOasis of the Alliance
bulletIntercultural Dialogue
 · A Challenge for the Alliance
 · Culture & Interculturality
 · Barcelona 2004
 · Globalisation or dialectics
 · Inter-religious dialogue
 · League of the Iroquois
 · Intercultural listening
 · Initiatives & partners
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Intercultural dialogue in a world that is made up of many worlds

Coordinated by Agusti Nicolau Coll

A Challenge for the Alliance

Almost everywhere across the globe, we realise that the beautiful dream of one single world cannot conceal the obvious fact that this world is made up of many worlds. Cultural pluralism, an inevitable and living reality, is impossible to suppress, whether it is in the name of progress, democracy or human rights.

We cannot pretend or hope that peace, justice and welfare can be achieved through planetary cultural homogenisation in the name of globalisation. On the contrary, this makes peace, justice and welfare impossible since it is done against the aspirations and interests of a large number of peoples and cultures, and against History itself as demonstrated by Jean Loup Herbert (see article). The idea of a world that is just and peaceful cannot be achieved by eliminating our differences, as these very differences make up the source that contributes towards this aim. The "reductionist" idea of "harmony inspite of our differences" must be replaced with "harmony due to these differences".

In this context, intercultural and inter-religious dialogue becomes a necessity for the 21st century not only to overcome conflicts between communities (see Asghar Ali Engineer’s article) but also to rethink and respond in more than one way, to challenges faced by Humanity. Cultural pluralism has a tremendous potential to transform, since it enables setting up alternatives which are richer and more viable for the economic, social, ecological and political challenges.

Since one cannot judge the result of this dialogue, it is important that it be developed on the basis of the following points:

  • to accept that no culture can unilaterally impose conditions and framework of the dialogue;

  • to recognise that universality of values is always relative to the culture which has seen its inception and to the way in which they can be reinterpreted in other cultures;

  • to insist that actors of this dialogue be mainly people and communities at the grass-root level.

Within the Alliance, the intercultural question has surfaced with a lot of force, during the translation of the Platform for a responsible and united world, into other languages from French. How to translate concepts which do not exist in other languages? The workshop ‘What words do not say’, which resulted in the Naxos meeting last autumn, brought this difficulty to the fore front (see article). This difficulty or even impossibility to translate is but the tip of the iceberg of a reality that is far more profound: we do not see or live reality in a similar way!

This implies that we have different ways of conceiving a better world, and take different paths to arrive there. But this should not drag us into a paralysing scepticism. On the contrary, it must give us a richer perspective, as drawn out by Raimon Panikkar (see article). Cultures that are well established in their respective values, practices and institutions can weave alliances which aim at working together to improve living conditions for each and everyone and not just to defend each other. Robert Vachon explains in his article (see article) that the Iroquois nations had chosen this path almost a thousand years ago.

We are currently involved in the process of collective organisation of the Alliance and in the preparation of the event scheduled for the year 2001. It is important to make use of this situation and implement strategies and actions, ensuring thereby that the intercultural dimension is taken into account. The idea is to go beyond the framework of an ordinary international alliance, which may finally be reduced to (like others before it) an instrument of lobbying a certain European social-democracy that does not recognise the limits or the basis of the monocultural way in which it presents and solves problems. The challenge is to constitute a truly intercultural alliance. Here I mean a network of people, communities and grass-root groups who acknowledge, help and enrich each other so that values and practices essential to their survival and welfare prevail in a plural world.

We must work concretely in the following direction:

  • Revision of the Platform to find out if it is preferable to establish several Platforms based on different cultural zones and civilisations expressing different points of view.

  • Organisation of the Alliance’s functioning, the way it is represented and its activities and events. In this context, the event for the Year 2001 should be a good opportunity to express our unity in diversity.

  • Establishing priorities of global strategies that reflect what is considered important in different cultures.

The path to arrive at an Intercultural Alliance is certainly long but absolutely necessary to be able to go beyond this world which globalises exclusion, injustice and war towards numerous worlds that ally themselves for peace, happiness and dignity. In this process, we need to take into account diverse human, cosmic and divine realities which are important for the peoples of the Earth.


Manifesto on cultural pluralism and interculturality

The ‘Intercultural Relations and Conflicts’ workshop of the Alliance coordinated by Agusti Nicolau Coll is presently drafting a ‘Manifesto on cultural pluralism and interculturality’ as a step to launch a discussion within the Alliance on intercultural dialogue and the importance of cultural diversity.
Following a first round of discussions, a second draft is being prepared to be distributed to all interested allies. This Manifesto will also be soon available on the Alliance website ( To get a copy and to participate in the debate, please contact:

Contact: Agustí Nicolau Coll
Centre per a la Innovació Social
Apartat de Correus 145, 08290 Cerdanyola del Vallès, Catalunya, Espagne

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© 2000 Alliance for a Responsible and United World. All rights reserved. Last updated January 30, 2000.