Dear Members, Friends and Followers

Welcome to this winter 2020 issue of our peer-reviewed SIETAR Switzerland Journal. We called for submissions on topics underpinning the 2020 congress, namely inclusion, diversity and intercultural mindfulness. The call was answered with such insightful articles written by congress speakers and delegates Vincent Merk, Nasser Yassine, Ingunn Johanne Ness, Helen Spencer-Oatey, Tom Waterhouse, Tawa Braimah, and Peter Mousaferiadis. Further, we are pleased to share a particularly reflective contribution by student delegate Michelle Bauer. A selection of further student reflections will be selected for an upcoming students’ congress corner on our website.

Being able to shift cultural perspective and change behavior in culturally appropriate and authentic ways is at the heart of our intercultural mindsets. Not only is there potential for the relationships built during the congress and other collaborative projects within SIETAR to evolve and become reciprocal friendships, there is also an excellent scaffolding for future collaborations. That is how we can put intercultural theory into practice. Make it a part of our daily lives at home, at university, in the government, and in business.

In this age of globalization and migration, our societies are increasingly more diverse. Whilst these new forms of diversity are creating new opportunities, they are also raising many challenges, such as intolerance, prejudice and misunderstanding, social fragmentation and violent extremism. These challenges raise new questions about the meaning of ‘progress’, about the foundations for peace and sustainability for inter-culturalism, respect for human rights, and fundamental freedoms. In 2015, The United Nations set 17 Sustainable Development Goals together with world leaders. These goals aim to create a better, fairer, world – ending poverty, inequality, and urgently addressing climate change. Amongst these is the objective to build by 2030, a culture of peace for inclusive and pacific societies. These goals will not be achieved unless we are able to set aside anything that divides us and work for the Future of our World and that of humanity. A reminder: there is no Planet B!

This situation has been further exacerbated by the COVID Pandemic. Changes have been dramatic for many. “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen” (Vladimir Ilyich Lenin). Lenin could not have imagined that his words describing the Bolshevik revolution over 100 years ago would be applied so often in 2020 in speeches and in social media.

This year, intercultural, social and technical challenges have accompanied teachers, students and researchers around the world. Acknowledging that there are limitations in what can be expected from all involved was an important starting point. Next comes accepting that returning to the way anything was before will not be feasible in the near future. The next normal (not the ‘new normal’) will be different for students, educators and researchers. There are challenges, but COVID has had positive effects also: Reinforcing our sense of interdependence, pushing us into reassessing long-held beliefs and requiring us to rethink our structures. Moreover, it will still be a world in which global progress can only be achieved through international cooperation and intercultural mindfulness.

This is where SIETAR plays an important role. Since its creation, it has been the role and mission of The Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research and its national associations around the world to raise awareness for the importance of intercultural dialogue in our societies, to provide relevant educational programs, to connect research to intercultural practitioners and specialists in the field, and to support the professional development of our members, thereby contributing to help those who work with the leaders of tomorrow to understand what is at stake for our future.

When it became painfully clear that our congress was not going to take place live, the Board and Congress Committee decided it was time to take some unusual steps. Our President consulted with our sponsors and found they were willing to not only support us with a virtual congress, but they also agreed to let us use the funds they had contributed to open this congress to the broader numbers by providing student passes and scholarships so we could be as inclusive as possible. And indeed a congress about the Future of Inclusion could not take place without being oriented to the new generations from whose ranks will emerge the leaders of tomorrow. In this same spirit of inclusion, it gives us great pleasure to share the recordings of the various sessions of this congress with the SIETAR Community and beyond. https://sietar.ch/2020-congress-sessions-recordings/

Working together across the globe for the good of intercultural education, training and research remains vital, and we postulate that it has become even more important now than ever before for the future of society as a whole.

Enjoy the read and be sure to note the announcement of our 2022 congress dates and venue.

We wish you a wonderful, reflective, and healthy holiday season.

Anne-Claude Lambelet and Jillaine Farrar

Illustration credit : Monika Ernst, Congress delegate (student Lucerne University of Applied Sciences & Arts)


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