The ceremony was held in the presence of His Excellency Mr Abdullah Al-Owaise, representing His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al-Qassimi, Governor of Sharjah (United Arab Emirates); Mr Saif Sultan Mubarak Al-Aryani, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO; and Mr Abdullah Hassan Al-Manan, Director of Department of Cultural Affairs of Sharjah. Mr George Anastassopoulos, President of the General Conference, and Mr Olabiyi Yai, Chairman of the Executive Board, were also present.
The Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture is offered every year, for the past six years, by the government of Sharjah. It grants US$50.000 to each of the two laureates, one from an Arab country and another from a non-Arab country, for their artistic, intellectual or promotional contribution to the development of the Arab culture around the world. This year, the International Jury examined 28 candidatures from 23 countries and territories, and recommended to award the prize to Professor Aladine Lolah (Syria) and Professor Shah Abdus Salam (India), a choice warmly approved by the Director-General. Among many other credentials, Dr Lolah has significantly contributed to the dissemination of scientific theory on Islamic architecture. For his part, Dr Shah Abdus Salam, through his numerous publications in Urdu, Hindi, English and Arabic has significantly contributed to increasing our knowledge of Arab culture around the world.
The Director-General began his opening address by thanking His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed al-Qassimi for his vigorous support for the promotion of Arab culture and related UNESCO activities. “We are particularly grateful for His Highness's generosity and concrete efforts to support culture in the Arab world, as well as for his steadfast commitment to fostering intercultural dialogue,” he stated.
Mr Matsuura went on to describe the importance of the Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture, as a very timely undertaking: “This initiative has helped to pave the way to mutual understanding and peace in a period fraught with tension and conflicts, many of which are grounded upon cultural misunderstanding and misperception. UNESCO’s Constitution reminds us that ‘"ignorance of each other’s ways and lives has been a common cause, throughout the history of mankind, of that suspicion and mistrust between the peoples of the world through which their differences have all too often broken into war.”’ Accordingly UNESCO seeks to dispel such ignorance through the promotion of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue, which rank among our highest priorities,” he added.
Many of UNESCO's actions in the field of culture aim at contributing to peace, mutual understanding and social cohesion, precisely by promoting dialogue among all peoples in accordance with the Global Agenda for Dialogue among Civilizations, and its Programme of Action adopted by the United Nations General Assembly by 2001. “In this respect,” explained the Director-General, “the Sharjah Prize, which encourages enhanced knowledge of the cultures of different peoples and nations as well as greater intercultural exchange, is clearly in harmony with UNESCO’s key missions.”
In conclusion, before handing the diplomas and checks to both distinguished laureates, the Mr Matsuura congratulated them for their exemplary work in the development and the international diffusion of Arab culture and language, and wished them continued success in their future research and activities.
Author(s): Office of the Spokeswoman - Source: Flash Info N° 197-2007 - Publication Date: 07-12-2007