NAFSA: Intercultural dialogue the ‘antidote’ to polarisation

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“The moment we’re in requires that we widen our lens, [and] open our eyes and hearts to the human suffering around us,” said Aw in her opening address.

“Among the crises surrounding this are conflicts and wars resulting in lives lost, dreams deferred, displacement and trauma,” Aw continued.

“Climate disasters have engulfed many places around the world, with serious implications for racial, economic, and social justice. Polarisation and extremism, fuelled by ideologies of hate, bias and discrimination prevent us from finding unity, peace, and well-being.

“As international educators, we must remain strong and undeterred, for knowledge that education is truly at the centre of a better and more just world.

“Intercultural dialogue and understanding are important antidotes to hate, prejudice, and polarisation,” she added.

Intercultural dialogue and understanding are important antidotes to hate, prejudice, and polarisation

Fanta Aw, NAFSA

These powerful sentiments were echoed by outgoing president Berger’s own remarks, who reflected on the conflict taking place much closer to home.

“This moment [in coming together as global educators] couldn’t have come at a better time or in a better place,” she said.

Berger referenced recent student protests on campus in response the ongoing conflict in Gaza, with the forced removal and arrests of students and academics shocking the higher education community.

“As someone who works on a US college campus, I know this is a difficult time for higher education,” she said.

“We’ve seen protests and counter-protests pull at the very fabric of campuses and challenge higher education’s role in addressing and solving some of the world’s biggest problems and conflicts.”

Berger warned that US culture wars, including anti-DEI legislation, were ‘dismantling democracies’ and that “scepticism is growing about the value of a college degree”.

Upcoming elections – not just in the US, but worldwide – along with student recruitment caps and visa issuance delays were sounded out as further tests on the horizon, but ultimately the audience were left with a sense of hope.

This year’s NAFSA conference is being attended by over 8,000 international educators, with 40% of delegates coming from overseas, it was revealed.

Host city New Orleans – a place ‘synonymous with recovery, rebirth, and reinvention’ after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – was framed as the perfect setting to inspire resilience amongst delegates.

“We know one thing is certain: when people come together to learn from each other and share ideas together, they are less likely to dehumanise each other,” said Berger.

“We provide people the academic tools, resources and structures to engage across difference. This year’s conference location is an ideal place to recharge and gain strength for the important work that we do every day.”

The post NAFSA: Intercultural dialogue the ‘antidote’ to polarisation appeared first on The PIE News.

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