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  Cross-cultural forum looks abroad  



A Chinese forum dedicated to promoting cross-cultural exchanges and the Confucian spirit of harmonization expects to hold a special session at the United Nations (UN) headquarters later this year, organizers said Tuesday.

  QUFU, Shandong, May 23 (Xinhua)-- A Chinese forum dedicated to promoting cross-cultural exchanges and the Confucian spirit of harmonization expects to hold a special session at the United Nations (UN) headquarters later this year, organizers said Tuesday.

  "We are planning to organize a Nishan Forum later this year in the United States, and we hope to do it at the UN headquarters. It's where the call for cultural diversity was initially launched," Xu Jialu, founder and president of the forum's organizing committee, said at a Tuesday meeting with officials from UN agencies in the city of Qufu in east China's Shandong province.

  Xu, 75, said he was impressed by the "unexpectedly fruitful outcome" of the Paris Nishan Forum, which took place last month as a joint effort with UNESCO, and was thus inspired to create a greater global presence for the forum.


  The Nishan Forum came into being in September 2010 after Xu, a retired vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and renowned Confucian scholar, spent nearly three years working to turn it into China's first high-level spiritual dialogue.

  As many as 30 foreign scholars came from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Thailand to take part in the first forum, accounting for about one-fifth of the event's participants.

  However, organizers have been working to strengthen the forum's overseas presence, holding the Nishan Forum on April 16 this year at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The one-day event drew more than 200 participants, including ambassadors, politicians and educators.

  With the success of the Paris forum, the event to be held in the U.S. later this year will mark the forum's first step toward creating a greater international presence.

  "The initial plan for the U.S. Nishan Forum has already taken shape. We probably will invite about 30 scholars and religious leaders, mostly from North America and Europe, to attend the conference," Xu said.

  Xu said the attendees will discuss methods to attain peaceful relations between different cultures, a more difficult issue than the significance of cultural diversity, a topic that was previously discussed at the forum.

  The forum's organizers have clearly stated a desire to work with cultural branches of the UN, including UNESCO and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), a program established in 2005 to ease misunderstandings between different cultures and religions.

  The forum has become a global partner of the grassroots "Do One Thing For Diversity and Inclusion" campaign launched in 2011 by UNESCO and UNAOC. Both agencies are expected to participate in the upcoming U.S. forum.

  "We are keen to collaborate with the Nishan Forum," said Jean-Christophe Bas, a senior UNAOC advisor.

  "The UNAOC's own annual forum will be held in Vienna, Austria in February 2016. There will be thousands of participants from all over the globe," he said.

  While it may be possible to hold the U.S. Nishan Forum at the UN headquarters, the organizers must wait until the venue is available, Bas said.


  Xu said the forum exists largely for the purpose of embodying and encouraging cultural diversity and inclusion, adding that the forum allows foreign participants to embrace diversity by presenting new cultures in a comprehensive way.

  Larry Hurtado, a professor at the School of Divinity under the University of Edinburgh, said many westerners are only familiar with China through the products they purchase from the country, adding that few people broach deep societal concepts, such as culture and philosophy.

  Dialogues like the Nishan Forum will provide ways for them to understand China more thoroughly, Hurtado said, adding that the meetings will help to build trust and sustain relationships between people of different cultures.

  His opinions were echoed by Darrol Bryant, an emeritus professor at the University of Waterloo.

  "It is quite different to come and talk to people of different cultures and religions, compared with learning from the books. It is impossible to understand a culture purely through books," Bryant said.

  "It's difficult to predict the total outcome, but the endeavor is very positive and promising. It's nice that the Nishan Forum is continuing," Hurtado said.





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