Top officials from governments, non-government organizations, and civil societies from across Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East held a meeting in Beijing's Palace Museum on Thursday, to discuss cultural exchange as a path to peace.
The Palace Museum, or Forbidden City, an enduring symbol of China, is a fitting venue for the first-ever Dialogue on Exchanges and Mutual Learning Among Civilizations. Inside the Palace Museum, guests from Bangladesh, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Egypt, Iran and host China – countries with distinct civilizations – discussed ways to improve understanding of different cultures and global governance of cultural exchanges.
"All of the conflicts and confrontations derive from one root: Lack of understanding among different civilizations," said Ji Bingxuan, president of the Chinese Association for International Understanding. "Countries should learn from history to communicate instead of isolate, to co-exist but not dominate, to respect and not belittle other cultures."
Officials at Thursday's event said the nature of most modern-day conflicts is rooted in a clash between cultures, and not just ideological differences like in the Cold War era.
However, former Chilean president Eduardo Frei warned there's a fine line between so-called clashes of civilization and geopolitical conflicts.
He said that everyone should be careful about classifying one country's unilateral behavior as a civilization clash.
Former Egyptian prime minister Essam Sharaf said ancient civilizations like Egypt and China have the responsibility to share their experiences on how to co-exist culturally, while maintaining their culture's unique attribute.
Among other attendees were former Iranian vice president Hassan Ghafouri Fard, former Peruvian prime minister Pedro Cateriano, Deputy Speaker of Bangladesh Parliament Fazle Rabbi Miah, and Deputy Speaker of Mexican Parliament Marco Antonio Adame Castillo.