Letter: Using culture to promote peace

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The Independent Online
Sir: Monday's meeting of European cultural ministers in Birmingham should do more than talk about the art trade. At a time when so much of the conflict in the Balkans uses culture as an excuse for bloodshed, they must address the crisis with the same urgency as colleagues in foreign affairs. We therefore call on the meeting to appoint a cultural envoy to assist Lord Owen in the peace process.

The envoy should have four clear tasks: to encourage goodwill, by developing cultural connections between communities and by offering firm support and a voice for the many citizens of the former Yugoslavia cultures; to instigate intercommunal contacts in those areas where it is feasible; to explore ways in which those in the arts can provide relief and moral support in cities under attack; and to assess the damage to the built heritage and arts facilities and, with Unesco, to devise a means of protecting them.

In this way the ministers could augment the search for reconciliation and offer, through the arts, a glimpse of sanity.

Yours faithfully,

MICHAEL BERKELEY

SIR PETER MAXWELL DAVIES

ALEXANDER GOEHR

SIMON MUNDY

NIGEL OSBORNE

IAN RITCHIE

JO SHAPCOTT

London, NW2

6 September

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