German Bundestag Meeting brings to end 2014 International Summer University

Graduation ceremony in the presence of Anne-Marie Revcolevchi

The second International Summer University for Intercultural Leadership, organized by the Aladdin Project, the Free University of Berlin and the Berlin campus of Bahcesehir University, under the patronage of the UNESCO and in partnership with 20 universities from Europe, Middle-East, Africa and North America, ended on July 11 with the awarding of diplomas of “Youth ambassadors for peace and dialogue among cultures” to the sixty participating students. The closing ceremony in the German Bundestag brought together leading figures from political, religious and academic spheres who addressed the theme of this year’s summer university: “Religions, peace and conflicts in the 21st Century”. Bundestag Vice-President Edelgard Bulmahn, a former Federal Minister of Education, hosted the event in the imposing room of the German Parliament’s European Union Affairs Committee.

Closing Ceremony in Bundestag

At the invitation of Edelgard Bulmahn, Vice-President of the Bundestag, an important international gathering took place in the Bundestag on Friday, July 11, in the presence of many personalities from the world of politics, religion and academia, including Turki Al-Dakhil, advisor of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, His Royal Highness the Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Salman al Saud, and Founding Chairman of  Dubai-based Al-Mesbar Research and Studies Center; Volker Beck, first secretary of the Green party at the German parliament; Ozcan Mutlu, Member of Parliament; Anne-Marie Revcolevschi, President of the Aladdin Project; Dr. Mustafa Ceric, Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Yitzhak Ehrenberg, Chief Rabbi of Berlin, representing the Conference of European Rabbis; Father Arduino Marra, vicar of the Saint Hedwig’s Cathedral, representative of the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Woelki; Ann-Belinda Preis, special representative of Irina Bokova, General Director of the UNESCO; Peter-Andre Alt, President of the Free University of Berlin ; Enver Yücel, President of Bahcesehir University ; Stephan Kraemer, Director of the European Office on Anti-Semitism, and Dr. Christian Staffa, founder and Honorary Chairman of the German NGO, Memory, Redemption and Reconciliation. Also present were the ambassadors and senior diplomats of a large number of European, Middle Eastern and African nations.

Aladdin Project Executive Director Abe Radkin, chairing the meeting, paid tribute to the leadership of the Bundestag and especially its Vice-President, Edelgard Bulmahn, for hosting the event. He noted that for two weeks, American, Argentine, Azerbaijani, Belgian, British, Egyptian, French, German, Indonesian, Iraqi, Israeli, Italian, Jordanian, Kurdish, Moroccan, Palestinian, Romanian, Saudi Arabian, Senegalese, Sudanese, Tunisian and Turkish students, worked together on the theme, Religions, Peace and Conflicts in the 21st Century. They followed two dozen lectures given by first-class professors coming from the partner universities of the program– Harvard, Sciences Po, EHESS, Freie Universität, Tel Aviv University... – and they launched collective research projects which they would submit to an international jury by October.

A number of well-known personalities who could not attend the meeting sent messages of support, including Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs; Katrin Göring-Eckardt, co-chair of the Green/90 Alliance group at the German Parliament and Chief Rabbi René-Samuel Sirat, former Chief Rabbi of France and Vice-President of the Conference of European Rabbi.

The representatives of Jewish, Muslim and Christian religions expressed alarm at the danger of aggravating conflicts of identity and rejection of the Other. Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric, after calling for a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the July 11, 1994, massacre in Srebrenica, noted that “at this time of rising intercultural and inter religious tensions in different parts of the world, it is of utmost importance that we share a positive political and religious message on the significance of peace and dialogue based on a constructive rapprochement of religions, cultures and politics in the world.”

The presidents of the Free University of Berlin and Bahcesehir University joined the special envoy of the UNESCO in expressing their institutions’ commitment to the continuation and expansion of the summer university initiative with concrete ideas. Vice-President Bulmahn, for her part, praised the students for the work they had undertaken during the program and emphasized the indispensable role of education in peace-building and bringing peoples of different faiths and cultures together. Anne-Marie Revcolevschi underlined the need to multiply such projects to give the Euro-Mediterranean youth the means to contribute to peaceful and fraternal relations between religions, cultures and nations. Professor Arnd Bauerkaemper of Freie Universitaet, speaking on behalf of the Academic Committee of the Aladdin Project, described the way the two-week program had been designed and the students’ research projects conducted in groups of three to four. The presence of students from diverse nationalities in each group allowed the chosen topics to be studied from different perspectives and greatly enriched the debate.

Six new partner universities and research institutes joined the program this year: Harvard and Columbia (United-States), La Sapienza (Italy), Salahaddin (Kurdistan, Iraq), Al-Mesbar Study and Research Center (UAE) and the Polytechnic University of West Africa (Senegal), while 14 universities that had sent students to Istanbul in 2013 participated for the second year: Ain Shams (Egypt) , Al-Quds (Palestinian Authority) , Bahcesehir and Bogazici (Turkey) , Florida International and New York Universities (United States), Freie Universität Berlin (Germany) , Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (Switzerland) , Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (France) , Mohamed V University (Morocco) , NYU Abu Dhabi (UAE) , School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (United Kingdom) , Tel Aviv University (Israel)  and Tunis Manouba University (Tunisia).