By Spiros Sideris – Rhodes
Summary of the first day of the Rhodes Forum 2014
About 400 thinkers from 56 countries gathered on Greek island of Rhodes to discuss possibilities of harmonization of international relations and strengthening of stability in the world during the Rhodes Forum – 12th annual session of the World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations”. The event is being held every autumn since 2003 and brings together public figures and statesmen, academics, religious figures and representatives of the arts, mass media and business spheres from all over the world.
The first day of the Forum was attended by: founding president of the World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations” Vladimir Yakunin, President of the Czech Republic Miloš Zeman, Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks of the Hellenic Republic Michalis Chrisochoidis, German politician Matthias Platzeck, Austrian politician Alfred Gusenbauer, Princess of Bahrain HH Shaikha Dheya bint Ebrahim Al Khalifa and other prominent figures.
The main theme of the 12th Rhodes Forum is “Preventing World War Through Global Solidarity: 100 years on”, commemorating the 100th Anniversary of WWI. The theme is as relevant today as it has ever been in light of the numerous military conflicts raging in different parts of the world today, when it’s imperative to promote the culture of non-violence, and the spirit of cooperation, peace, and justice in the world.
Vladimir Yakunin has underlined in his speech: “As we have noted many times in previous years, the dialogue of civilizations is not a merely speculative concept of “wishing well”. This is a natural process of approaching other nations, penetrating into the depths of one’s own culture and becoming familiar with other cultures, as well as searching for the principles and forms of co-existence, revealing one’s own potential and actual possibilities… The main goal of the 12th annual session of Rhodes Forum is to analyze the main directions of the “worldwide dialogue community” theoretical and practical activities and suggest some fair and peaceful models for the coexistence of human communities.”
The president of the Czech Republic Miloš Zeman in his welcome speech noted: “The sanctions should be canceled, they are not only useless, but on the contrary produce the opposite effect and block dialogue. The dialogue between civilized states should be developed, based on interaction in religion, business and information. We should fight against the international terrorism.”
Chairman of the German-Russian Forum Matthias Platzeck said: “I came to the Rhodes Forum to listen to the arguments of the EU and Western critics in terms of differences of our civilizations and also to try to understand them. At the same time I see my role as the Chairman of the German-Russian Forum in an attempt to restore destroyed bridges and to rediscover lost similarities. Perhaps due to the conflict, in which we rush straight into fatal misunderstandings, that need to be fixed.”
The first plenary meeting, moderated by WPF “Dialogue of Civilizations” Co-chairman Prof Fred R. Dallmayr (USA), was titled “Culture of Nonviolence: Tolstoy, Gandhi and the Legacy of J.C. Kapur. The Role of Spirituality in Creating a New Modernity”. This plenary paid tribute to J.C. Kapur’s visionary stand by paying close attention to different aspects of Mahatma Gandhi’s thought and praxis. The participants of the forum emphasized that for Gandhi, it was not sufficient to oppose British colonial presence in India, but to ensure that Indians were not cognitively enslaved to the intellectual and socio-political and economic outlooks of their colonial masters.
In the plenary meeting “World Order and the Politics of Regime Change”, moderated by Prof. Dr. Hans Köchler (Austria), has been discussed, that in the unilateral power constellation that emerged after the end of the Cold War, the United Nations’ system of collective security has increasingly become dysfunctional. The effective absence of checks and balances has encouraged the dominant global player to pursue its national interests also by use of armed force. In this context, “régime change” has become an ideological buzzword for a geostrategic approach, which resembles the arrogance of former colonial powers and is in outright contradiction to the principle of sovereign equality of states.
During the first day of the Rhodes Forum participants have also discussed peace and security in Europe and Asia in the context of US Power during the session, moderated by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar (Malaysia), President of International Movement for a Just World. In the course of the last one year, issues of peace and security in Europe and Asia have come to the fore as a result of the crisis in Ukraine on the one hand and tensions in Northeast and Southeast Asia, on the other. In the case of Ukraine, at the root of the problem is the US-led NATO push for power eastwards which has brought that military alliance to the very doorsteps of Russia and threatens the peace and security of the region. China’s friction with Japan and also Vietnam and the Philippines has been heightened by the US’s pivot to Asia which is essentially a systematic attempt to re-assert its power in the continent. The US drive to preserve and perpetuate its power in both Europe and Asia is part and parcel of its larger agenda to ensure that it remains the world’s sole superpower.
In the midst of the unfolding new Cold War a monstrous specter is emerging: the threat of a Third World War with truly global proportions. The session of World Public Forum -“Dialogue of Civilizations” will continue discussion of global problems in workshops during 27-28 of September. International NGO’s representatives, human rights activists, trade unionists of Europe, independent intellectuals will discuss how to avoid possible future conflicts, problems of youth living in so-called disputed zones (Kosovo, Palestine, Armenia, Ukraine, etc.), migration problems as well as economic issues (trade union movement, Silk road industrial and trade cooperation), ecology issues, intercultural and interreligious dialogue in different aspects.