Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Words Beyond Borders - Writers for Peace International Conference

Words Beyond Borders - Writers for Peace International Conference
Haifa, Israel, December 1 - 4, 2010

The International Conference of Writers for Peace took place in Haifa with 40 writers from 13 countries in attendance.

The objective of the conference was to discuss issues concerning peace and freedom of expression. It brought together people from many parts of the world to meet each other and become friends, if they weren't already.

The choice of time and place, coinciding with the Holiday of Holidays Festival — which celebrates Ed Al-Adha, Hannukah, and Christmas — underlines the intention to carry on a free and frank discussion of issues specific to the region.

Many themes were discussed in this spirit, such as Language of Writing, Literature Facing the Challenges of our Time —Environment and Peace, Liberty of Conscience and Freedom of Expression, Writers in Periods of Conflict, Human Rights. Writers from different places, with profoundly different opinions told their personal stories, but they were all united in understanding the necessity and urgency of searching for a peaceful solution to the problems of Israelis and Palestinians.

The reduced participation of Arab and Palestinian writers, despite the insistent invitations, remains an open issue. But such participation in future meetings is very necessary. Half of the hall should not be empty again.

Writers and intellectuals should continue to pursue dialogue with each other even in complex situations, making full use of freedom of expression and in complete independence of political authorities.

The main issues of the Haifa Conference can be summarized in the following three points:

1) Freedom of conscience is only a first step but no guarantee of freedom.

2) It remains to be seen whether Israeli and Palestinian writers will fight for freedom of expression to make peace or whether they will tolerate the various kinds of censorship.

3) If peace is to become a basic human right, it needs to be constructed through education, attention, dialogue, and artistic creation.

Similarly, during these last few days we have seen countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Cyprus, and Greece sending assistance and support to Haifa to extinguish the fire that has ravaged the region and caused 40 deaths. Such solidarity reveals that there can always be a will to work together in emergency situations. If people are able to come together under such tragic conditions, they can also cooperate in order to make peace.