Famed Poet and Ambassador to UNESCO Sees Cultural Rapprochement as Art of Life

ASTANA – Famed poet and Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to UNESCO Olzhas Suleimenov participated in the forum held in Astana on the occasion of the inauguration of the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures in late August. He shared his reflections on the aims and objectives of the new global initiative advanced by Kazakhstan in an interview for The Astana Times.

“First, I would like to note that announcing the Decade of the rapprochement of cultures, we placed a major emphasis on youth. I have already said that war begins in school and peace must begin there, too. There are serious fundamental standards in science. It is necessary to develop such standards – common understanding of things – in the humanitarian field. And we need to extend these standards in order for people everywhere to equally understand what is good and what is bad … Scientists and the entire education system should be involved in the programme of the Decade of Rapprochement of Cultures,” Suleimenov said.

“Speaking at the forum in Astana, I said that now, when the media in many countries place one religion in opposition to another, and when Islam is acutely perceived in the countries of Christianity and Christianity or Buddhism are warily seen in the Islamic countries, it creates disharmony of relations in the modern world. And it would be good to find in history instances when these religions helped each other to overcome their misconceptions and prejudice,” he continued.

You said in your speech at the forum that the concept of culture has been expanded and if once it was practically synonymous with art, now it includes such concepts as science and what you call the science of life.

The art of life and the science of life is the art of survival, especially in the difficult climatic conditions of ancient times, when methods of surviving were worked out. That was culture. Treatment of land is also culture. That’s why now we want to return to the understanding of culture as not only songs and dances, but the art of life in society in a neighbourhood with other communities. And if we develop certain ethical standards that find the response, support and understanding of each nation and we introduce them over this decade, then the convergence of cultures will help to bring peoples closer together. So far, unfortunately, the same man for some is a criminal and for others a hero. UNESCO is taking on this burden, trying to solve a complex task: bringing together cultures and peoples. And this idea was initiated by Kazakhstan, a multicultural, multi-ethnic and multireligious state. The 20th century has helped us to get closer to this model of humanity.

Kazakhstan became multinational, as they say, not by choice.

Yes of course, but the result is that we had to develop forms of relationships that would unite and bring us together, helping our survival. We should promote and explain to everyone that general, planetary interrelation and interdependence can save humanity as it saves a single multinational state. UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said that this is taken into account in specific international projects. For example, in national reserves that are found on the borders of two states, neighbouring states can join in the projects. The peoples of the two countries then begin to value equally the biological richness of their shared land. This attitude of neighbours, when they realise their dependence on each other, pulls them together. Borders do not divide in this case, but rather unite.

The convergence of cultures involves many activities and trips, and this requires a lot of money. Who can provide it?

We have just discussed this with Irina Bokova and [Mayor of Astana and Chair of National UNESCO Commission] Imangali Tasmagambetov. I think we need to create a programme and ask all the national commissions of UNESCO to make proposals from the member states and then discuss them at the conference and bring them into a single form. All 200 nations should be involved in it and should include funds in their budgets for the projects that will be defined in the plan. Then, during the Decade of Rapprochement of Cultures, the state will work in tandem with the public. Irina Bokova supported this idea.

UNESCO gives honorary titles like artist of the world and good will ambassador. What is the responsibility of people who hold these titles?

Olympic champion boxer Serik Sapiyev, I dare say, is the first athlete-ambassador of good will. Previously there was the Champion of UNESCO title and such great sportsmen as Pele and [Formula 1 driver Michael] Schumacher held it. Together with Imangali Tasmagambetov, we nominated Serik Sapiyev for this title. But Irina Bokova, as she said in her letter to Sapiyev, decided to raise the status of the title. Now it is UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Sports. Usually it is given for two years. The holder of the title should promote UNESCO ideals wherever he meets with people.

And our athletes and actors visiting different countries carry the message of peace and tolerance, thereby promoting Kazakhstan in the world.

Yes, of course. And the fact that all of these major ideas and integration initiatives are proposed by Kazakhstan draws attention to our country. Such ideas do not arise from scratch. They are prepared by the people and consciousness of the society.

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