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May 21 is World Day For Cultural Diversity, Dialogue and Development

Culture / -

21 maggio, Giornata Onu della Diversità Culturale
© Huy Lam/First Light/Corbis

The meeting between the religions organized on the Expo site is designed to encourage a sharing of viewpoints, and experiences, in the drive to identify common areas of agreement, highlighting the similarities between the faiths, with special reference to their ideas on safeguarding the planet and the fight against food waste.

May 21 is World Day For Cultural Diversity, Dialogue and Development, an event instituted in 2002 by the United Nations, shortly after the adoption of UNESCO's Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. The annual World Day for Cultural Diversity provides the citizens of the world with an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity and to learn to live together better.
 
Expo Milano 2015 celebrates World Diversity Day by inviting the world’s faiths to choose a menu for happiness
In line with the UNESCO Declaration, Expo Milano 2015, as an international platform for debate on food, has decided to mark the 13th annual World Day for Cultural Diversity by inviting some of the key representatives of the world’s religions to take part in a debate on the theme of food, from an ethical point of view.
 
Attending the meeting, which has been arranged by Expo in association with the Diocese of Milan’s Service for the Development of Ecumenism and Inter-religious Dialogue, are Don Luca Bressan (Episcopal Vicar of the Archdiocese of Milan), Hamid abd al-Qadir Distefano (Imam, representative of Co.Re.Is, the Italian Islamic Religious Community), Giuseppe Platone (Pastor of the Waldensian Church in Milan), Elia Richetti (Rabbi, representative of the Milan Jewish Community), Vickie Sims (Chaplain of All Saints Anglican Church, Milan), Svamini Hamsananda Ghiri (Vice-President of the Italian Hindu Union), and Tenzin Khenze (Monk, representative of the Ghe Pel Ling Institute in Milan).
 
The Happiness Menu: every faith has its own recipe and its own blessing
Conceived in an ecumenical perspective, the Happiness Menu theme is informed by the wish to bring together the world’s faiths, considered by many to be a source of nourishment for the soul. The organizers believe that both traditions linked to food, and those linked to belief, can help people to help each other and to grow, each with their own recipe.
 
In the conviction that societies must strive to ensure harmonious integration between the different cultures and encourage all to participate in the life of the community for the good of all, and, as happened at the event held on April 23 (in Italian only), participants will be invited to concentrate on the similarities between the faiths, with special reference to safeguarding the planet, the environment, and preventing food waste. For, all agree that the environment is “the garden of the Lord that we need to tend with love and respect”. Highlighting the importance of food, the participants will be invited to bless the vegetarian menu that will be composed as a result of the meeting, a gesture of high symbolic importance.
 
Diversity enriches us on a cultural and on a human level
The event that took place on April 23 was one outcome of the meeting entitled The Expo of Ideas ("Le Idee di Expo verso la Carta di Milano") held on February 7, and where one of the topics discussed, with Monsignor Luca Bressan moderating, was how food and respect for the environment were powerful tools for bringing together people of different faiths (See an interview here, in Italian only).
 
UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity
Indeed, this view is reflected in the first of the twelve Articles that go to make up UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, which stresses the fact that cultural differences, including those related to religion are to be safeguarded, for, “As a source of exchange, innovation and creativity, cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature.”

Afghanistan, the ancient gateway to Asia

Culture / -

© Chris Strickland/Demotix/Corbis

For centuries Afghanistan has been a crossroads of peoples and traditions. Today, despite its enduring conflicts, it conserves the beauty of its bleak mountain ranges.

Like many countries in Central Asia, Afghanistan features freezing winters and torrid summers, and has undergone numerous foreign occupations on account of its strategic position as the gateway to Asia. The peoples who have passed through Afghanistan have left their traces on its history, as on its culture and the somatic features of native Afghans. Its Islamic faith has shaped the nation’s geopolitical stance, but also reinforced the deep sense of hospitality which pervades a people long used to the passage of travelers through its territory.
 
Meat, vegetables and spices: the three keys to Afghanistan’s cuisine
Most typical Afghan dishes are strongly spiced and are based principally on meat and vegetables. Notable among its specialties are the Kabuli Palaw, an extremely rich dish with rice, lentils, grapes, mutton and vegetables, suitable especially for ceremonial occasions. Aushak consists of a spicy kind of ravioli filled with onion and sauce of meat, yogurt and mint. Bichak stuffed pastries are eaten on an everyday basis, either filled with jam or pumpkin to accompany tea, or with meat during normal meals.
 
Afghanistan reveals its riches in Expo Milano 2015
The Afghan Pavilion is situated inside the Spices Cluster, suitably enough, given the spicy nature of Afghanistan’s cuisine, and the fact that spices are commonly regarded as benefitting health and longevity. The cultivation of aromatic herbs like mint and spices like saffron are a major feature inside the Pavilion, where their properties and characteristics are illustrated. The efforts the nation is making to achieve social and economic progress constitute a further basic theme in its exposition, along with the vast cultural variety of Afghanistan’s traditional gastronomy.
 
 

We can’t make ourselves rich at the expense of others and of nature

Culture / -

richetti per discorso 21 maggio imm rif

God was perfectly clear when he put Adam in the Garden of Eden. He told him “This is what I have created. Use it but don’t destroy it.” This is why the Jews have a series of rules concerning food, in order to respect and not overexploit the plants and animals which nourish us.

One premise: for the Hebrew faith all the most elevated teachings are expressed in the form of rules based more or less on the Bible. As far as producing food goes, we have a series of prohibitions which show us God’s thoughts. The prohibition for planting vines and wheat on the same land, for example, shows us that the soil must be respected, without over-stressing it or the species cultivated on it. And we are also taught to respect the animals which help us in our work, and respect the plants we cultivate… for example, it is forbidden to eat their first fruits, which gives the plants more time to reinforce themselves.
 
The sabbatical year and the jubilee also have the scope of not forcing nature’s rhythms. To work the Garden of Eden means improving it with our best abilities, through scientific development, to obtain optimal results from the soil, the crops and their products. How should we relate to scientific developments? Are they permissible? Do they violate nature? Will they make it possible for everyone to be nourished? Both those who have and those who do not have? This question doesn’t have a clear answer yet, because that must be formed in time through discussion and debate. There’s a good Jewish dictum that tells you the difference between paradise and hell: in paradise you can discuss things, in hell everything is already all too clear.
 
Still, for us anything that can contribute to improving is positive. God offers us possibilities because he has supplied us with intelligence. But one principle is always valid: when God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden he said to him “This is what I have created. Use it but do not destroy it.” No one should get rich at the expense of others. On the contrary, we have a duty to give alms. Although really, this is not the point. Real alms are those which supply what is necessary for living with dignity. As for food, there is one very explicit prohibition: do not waste food. We have a duty to eat a little less than what we need, in order to give other people the chance to eat a little more.
 

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