"On Tuesday, in Madrid, politicians, non-governmental organisations and civil society leaders from across the globe begin two days of dialogue aimed at addressing the growing polarisation between nations and cultures worldwide. The objective is not only to promote cross-cultural understanding, but also to create and develop partnerships and joint initiatives aimed at promoting an “Alliance of Civilisations”.
This is, in my view, an honourable objective, and one around which we should all unite. But in doing so we need to ensure that the voice of the weak and marginalised is heard. A striking characteristic of the modern era is the rapid diffusion of ideas and values from the centres of global power to the rest of humanity. Unfortunately, there is a tendency among the powerful to expect the rest to accept their world view without question. This is not always possible, nor is it desirable.
Non-western civilisations and cultures have their own unique history, traditions and theology, which often embody ideas and values that are fundamentally different from what the west has to offer. Nowhere is this divergence more apparent than on issues pertaining to religion."