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India big contributor to cultural diversity

india Updated: Nov 05, 2008 02:03 IST
Zia Haq

In this “century of minorities”, India could showcase to the world, irrespective of “incidents”, how to manage cultural and religious diversity, the visiting head of the UN’s Alliance of Civilisations and former President of Portugal Jorge Sampaio said in New Delhi on Tuesday.

“India is very much alive in the international life. Apart from providing talent, it is a big contributor to cultural and religious diversity which has thrived since long,” Sampaio, the high representative of the alliance, told HT in an exclusive interview.

The alliance is a UN-mandated multinational partnership to advance understanding among people across cultures and religions.

Sampaio said this was the age of migrations and hence “new worlds” comprising minorities were being “brought up”. He said the use of religion to fuel political problems was of concern. “So, we must be clear on issues like liberty of faith, terrorist activities and exclusion of minorities, etc,” Sampaio said.

The UN official said that as the world witnessed faith-related unrest, it had become important for people to respect values of other communities. “Otherwise, they get up and defend themselves.” Interfaith dialogue is the key and India could show the way, he said.

“Arrogance is outside the scope of respect for cultural diversity. The purpose of interfaith dialogue is not theology. We need to teach youth why other religions are important and understand other faiths.”

Sampaio is in India to address the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and shore up Indian support for national strategies on cultural and religious diversity.

Asked how he would like India to contribute to the alliance, Sampaio said: “That’s up to India but we would appreciate proposals or projects on key areas like education, migration and youth, etc for the alliance’s upcoming Istanbul forum in April.”