Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2008-01-15-Speech-2-105"

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"Ladies and gentlemen, it is a special honour and pleasure for me today, in this European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, to extend a warm welcome to the European Parliament to His Eminence Sheikh Ahmad Badr El Din El Hassoun, Grand Mufti of Syria. This is clearly symbolised by the fact that the Grand Mufti is accompanied on today’s visit by high-ranking religious leaders. That was his express wish, and may I make special mention of Bishop Antoine Audo, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Syria, and bid him a warm welcome. Your Eminence, it now gives me great pleasure to invite you to address the European Parliament. As I emphasised last week in Ljubljana at the opening ceremony for the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, the European Parliament attaches great importance to this year of dialogue between cultures. I am firmly convinced, as are many others, that it is both possible and essential for people from different cultures and religions to live together in peace, both within the European Union and in the world at large. Particular importance attaches in this context to our relations with the peoples on the opposite shores of the Mediterranean and in the Middle East. The fact is that the fruits of this dialogue will have a lasting effect on our common future. Together we must build an intellectual and cultural bridge across the Mediterranean, embedded in mutual enrichment and shared values. We build this bridge when we engage in continuous, honest and open dialogue in which we listen to each other, exchange our opinions frankly and develop mutual understanding. Tolerance is at the heart of intercultural dialogue. Tolerance does not mean indifference. Tolerance means putting forward our own points of view and hearing and respecting other people’s convictions. Where we find it impossible to accept another person’s point of view, it is still necessary to treat such views with respect, to exchange ideas and opinions peacefully and, wherever possible, to pave the way for joint action and thereby defuse tension. We must stress the things we have in common, including the substance of universal democratic values. Foremost among these are human dignity and the defence of inalienable human rights. In the course of 2008 and thereafter, the European Parliament will take several opportunities to engage in such talks. Today’s visit by the Grand Mufti of Syria represents the first of these opportunities. Ahmad Badr El Din El Hassoun, formerly Mufti of Aleppo, is regarded as an outstanding champion of inter-faith dialogue in a country where the religious communities in all their diversity still live and work together in peace."@en1

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