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Peace and Security

Toronto Forum on the Role of Culture in Resolving Middle Eastern Conflicts

Toronto, Canada - Conflicts in the Middle East are not limited to the Israel/Palestine conflict, Dr. Mordecai Kedar emphasized at a meeting on Jan. 26, 2014 in Toronto, Canada. The Intercultural Dialogue Institute of Greater Toronto proved to be a most appropriate venue for Ambassadors for Peace of various traditions to gather on a blistery cold and snowy day.

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Dr. Kedar, an Israeli scholar of Arabic literature, is an academic expert on Israeli-Arab issues and is currently on a North American tour. With 25 years of experience in military intelligence specializing in the area of discourse with Islam, the Arabic press and mass media, the scope of his presentation was an eye opener for all in attendance.

Dr. Kedar explained that conflict in the Middle East is not limited to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but that it indeed spans the entire Arab and North African world from Morocco to Iran. His thesis is that the solution lies in understanding the culture of the Middle East and the complexities of the relationship between the many factions found throughout the region.

Responders to Dr. Kedar's presentation included Islamic author Qamrul Khanson, who expressed his agreement with most of Kedar's perspective and quoted the Qur’an in pointing out the similarities found in the religions descended from Abraham. He emphasized the need for dialogue as the basis for progress in relations between members of different cultures.

A Roman Catholic perspective followed with Dr. Stan Chu Ilo, a professor at St. Michael's College, University of Toronto. Dr. Ilo, who is also an ordained priest, expressed his disagreement with Dr. Kedar's view that the solution lies in containing the various tribes in the Middle East. Dr. Ilo emphasized a need to move beyond past history and the status quo and to forge relationships of love and respect transcendent of tribe, ethnicity or race.

Ms. Judie Oron, a journalist, award-winning author and former director of the Jerusalem Post's charitable funds, shared her personal experience of adopting an Ethiopian child who had been sold into slavery and related that the conflicts in the Middle East were highly personal and emotional.

Ms. Atiya Ahsan, a female representative of the Islamic faith and currently a financial advisor, shared the experience of her adaptation to Canada spanning three generations and noted how changing one's culture requires a process over time.

The meeting concluded with questions from the audience. Dr. Kedar graciously responded, and a lively discussion ensued only to be cut short by the reality that he had another speaking engagement immediately following the UPF event at a nearby Jewish learning center. Several UPF representatives including Mitch Dixon, co-chair of Canada's Central District, Stoyan Tadin, interfaith advocate, Lilly Tadin, President of the Women’s Federation for World Peace-Canada, and Franco Famularo, Secretary-General of UPF-Canada, were welcomed by the members of Village Shul (Aish Hatorah Learning Center) and introduced to the entire congregation of several hundred in attendance. Dr. Kedar mentioned UPF's excellent activities in the Middle East and beyond and expressed his willingness to give presentations at future meetings.

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