University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer spoke about the significance of hosting the first UNESCO chair in intercultural dialogue in the U.S. at a reception on Wednesday, 29 October.
The reception celebrated the opening of the Centre for Intercultural Dialogue, which is the new home of the UO's UNESCO Chair for Transcultural Studies, Interreligious Dialogue and Peace.
Announced in July 2007 as the first-ever American Chair in UNESCO's Intercultural Dialogue program, the UNESCO Chair promotes research, teaching and community engagement in transcultural studies, interreligious dialogue and the pursue of peace. UNESCO is the acronym of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
'It is an honour for the University of Oregon to be among the world's leaders in creating a dialogue for peace and for understanding among the many religions and cultures of the world,' said Frohnmayer.
According to Steven Shankman, director and UNESCO Chair, the Centre for Intercultural Dialogue will encourage faculty research and teaching in transcultural studies and interreligious dialogue, and will initiate and coordinate public programs and events.
'With the global crises of economic instability, terrorism, genocide, escalating incarceration rates and climate change, it is crucial that citizens engage in intercultural and interreligious dialogue rather than a polarising clash of heated opinions,' said Shankman. 'We're inspired by the vistas that will be opened through the founding of the Centre for Intercultural Dialogue. And we're eager to reach out to students, faculty and the larger community to address these sensitive, vital issues.'
One of 20 similar chairs worldwide and the only in the U.S., the UNESCO Chair held by Shankman joins the University of Oregon to a number of institutions around the world dedicated to intercultural dialogue. For the first time, the U.S. will host the annual meeting of the Chairs in UNESCO's Intercultural Dialogue Program. This meeting, to be held at the University of Oregon, will coincide with an international symposium on 'Ethics, Religion and the Environment' May 9-10, 2009.
At the meeting of the UNESCO Chairs, Shankman will work with international colleagues in the UNITWIN network on Interreligious Dialogue for Intercultural Understanding. UNITWIN is UNESCO's university 'twinning' and networking system. Each Chair will leave Eugene with specific projects planned in collaboration with three other Chairs in the network.
During this academic year, the Centre for Intercultural Dialogue will develop a UNESCO-sanctioned certificate in intercultural dialogue as a supplement to an advanced degree in a variety of fields such as religious studies, comparative literature, international studies, arts and administration, political science and peace and conflict resolution.