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Sunday, 29 January 2012





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We can make humanism a reality - Dayan Jayatilleka

Ambassador Dayan Jayatilleka participated as a panellist at the international conference on "21stCentury, Towards the New Humanism" last week at the Russian Centre for Science and Culture. The event gathered dignitaries as well as Russian and French scholars and researchers.

The initiative was organised by the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to UNESCO, the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and for International Humanitarian Cooperation Mission Rossotrudni estvo in France, and the Russian Centre for Science and Culture.

The event took place with the support of UNESCO, the International Humanist and Ethical Union, and the European Humanist Federation Russian Humanist Society.

The object of this two-day seminar was to support UNESCO in its initiative for a new humanism for the sake of bettering conditions for inter-cultural dialogue and solidarity. The discussion also intends to prepare the possibility of holding together with the Spanish Forum 'NUNC!'- a broader conference on New Humanism in Moscow in autumn 2012.

Dr. Jayatilleka's speech was delivered during the first session chaired by Assistant Director-General for Strategic Planning of UNESCO Hans d'Orville. Among the conference participants were Ion de la Riva of Spain/UNESCO, Jean-Luc Nahel, Councillor, Conference of Presidents of French Universities and Efim Pivovar, President of Russian State Humanitarian University.

Speaking on New Humanism, Ambassador Jayatilleka emphasised on the need to place the human being at the centre: "humanism is the closest we can get to universal good, to a universal idea. Humanism puts the human being at the centre. And placing the human being at the centre means to recognise that above all else, beyond national, ethnic, political, civilisational, religious, systemic, and ideological differences, one thing unites us and that is that we are all human."

He said: "So long as we respect that fact, that above all else, and in the final analysis, we are human, we are able to connect, to communicate, to seek common solutions.

"This is why I find the search for a humanistic worldview to be, not only some ideal exercise, but a very practical answer to the global crisis of today.

"I also feel that there are material reasons that make this possible - namely the information revolution, the inter-connectedness that you see in the world today through the new information technology.

"What does this mean? It means that we are relating to each other as individuals, we are communicating as human beings to other human beings real-time, across vast distances. So perhaps for the first time we also have the material means, in terms of the means of communication, to make humanism a reality.

"Because the technology exists, the means of production of ideas exist, in a manner that they did not exist before.

"Now, what is, or should be, new about the New Humanism? The New Humanism has to be universalistic.

"Of course, we understand and recognise the powerful roots of humanism from within the Western and especially the Western European tradition, but I would say that part of our project has to be to interrogate all existing ideologies, ideas from all parts of the world and seek out their humanistic kernel, the humanistic core, the humanistic aspects.

"I think a similar exercise is necessary to go through the heritage of Latin America, Africa and Asia; the heritage in literature, the heritage in political ideas, the heritage in social ideas, the heritage even in forms of social systems, and try to uncover, try to unpack, try to deconstruct them, so you can find a humanistic core, if it exists, and carry it forward."



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