From 12 to 15 April, 2011, the international conference with the title “Transformation processes in Arab and European Countries - Formation of Identities in Conflict” took place at the Orthodox Academy of Crete (OAC). This conference is part of a wider program under the title “Arab-European Dialogue”, which is carried out at the OAC in co-operation with internationally renowned foundations and organizations such as the Association of the Evangelical Academies in Germany and the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS) in Egypt.
This program aims at examining the manifold political, social, economical and religious dimensions of the relations of the European states with the Arab countries as well as at contributing to their rapprochement, the overcoming of the mutual prejudices and the building of a healthy cooperation. In order to do so, people who shape the public opinion, especially from Arab countries, are invited. This program focuses on issues of crisis management, on the influence of the media in this respect, but also on the role of education, official as well as unofficial and on the prospect of reconciliation. The ulterior goal of this program is the realization of meetings of outstanding young leaders from target-groups (young politicians, journalists, presidents of students’ movements, lawyers, theologians, etc.), so that there can be influence and expansion of the results of that dialogue to the people shaping the public opinion in the near future.
At the conference at the OAC, representatives of religious groups, of the academic and political world, but also diplomats from European and Arab countries took part. The Greek Minister for External Affairs was represented by the Director of the E2 directorate for Religious and Ecclesiastical Matters, his Excellency the ambassador Mr Evangelos Damianakis, who contributed to a very high extent to the holding of the conference with his inspired opening address. Among others, the general director of the European network of Academies, OIKOSNET, Mr Wolfgang Lenz, the general secretary of the Association of the Evangelical Academies in Germany, Dr. Klaus Holz, as well as the director of CEOSS, Dr. Andrea Zaki, took part at the meeting. From the Orthodox Academy of Crete, the general director, Dr. Konstantinos Kenanidis, took part, who in his welcoming address first of all thanked especially the participants from the Arab countries, who stated the importance of the meeting with their presence, defying at the same time the great difficulties they are facing in their countries. Then, he underlined the long lasting links of Orthodoxy with the Arab world, the special role of Crete as a bridge of civilizations, but also the fact that the topic of the meeting was so up-to-date regarding the events that have been shaking the Arab countries for months now.
In the course of the conference that lasted for four days, the process of transformation of traditional societies and religious identities was examined in the frame of globalization and laicization. The goal was to gain an understanding of the different ways in which identities are formed and how these identities are tied to processes of social transformation as well as to causes of conflicts and their solution. With the examination of special cases from European and Arab countries as a starting point, the different perceptions concerning society, state and religion, which are expressed in Europe and the Arab world, were investigated. The conference looked for and appreciated suggestions regarding a mutual approach in the prospect of a common future, based on the values of mutual respect and understanding.