I have a list of places that I would like to visit at least once in this lifetime. It’s not a bucketlist per se, it’s more like a mind map that continously expands everytime I read or hear about a far-off city yet to be discovered by my curious soul.
This mind map travels with me ( well, it’s in my head) and I guess that’s why it’s more than just a wishlist for me. Dots on my mind map represent different cities. A visit to a city does not take away that city’s place on my mind map. It remains there, as a reminder of my attraction to it and what it offers. Some of the dots on my mind map include Goree Island, Dakar, Toronto ( nothing to do with Drake), Paris, São Paulo, a repeat of New York City and Bali.
Bali, Indonesia! The magical island of paradise. This August I had a chance to visit this city as a youth delegate of the UN Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC) . Out of 3000 applicants, only 40 international participants and 60 Indonesian participants were chosen.
UNAOC was established in 2005 at the political initiative of Mr Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General. UNAOC works towards a more peaceful, more socially inclusive world, by building mutual respect among people of different cultural and religious identities. And this is exactly what we experienced during the 4 days we spent with fellow delegates and participants. With over 46 countries represented by the youth participants alone, Bali provided the best setting for a multicultural gathering of this magnitude.
Indonesia is an archipelago which consists of 13,466 islands. This country has about 300 ethnic groups influenced by Indian, Arabic, Chinese and European identities. Its also the country with the largest Muslim population in the world. Bali, our host city on the other hand, is home to most of the country’s minority Hindu population. Indonesia is a culturally and religiously rich country. It was a fitting host for the 6th Global Forum which focussed on the theme; Unity in Diversity. As the High Representative of UNAOC put it- “Unity in Diversity” cauptures the spirit of Indonesia, it is after all a translation of their national motto – Bhinneka Tunggal Ika.
So my journey started with a flight to Bali with a connection in Hong Kong. As with all journeys across oceans, I was a little disorientated due to the change in time zones. I also cannot wait for the invention of some type of travel capsule that by-passes the need for long flights and long queues at immigration and customs. Who is with me on that one? We got to Bali on a bright and sunny Wednseday afternoon just in time to get ready for our first briefing. The striking thing about Bali is that it feels like a paradise. The tropical climate, the beautiful beaches, the friendly people all contribute to this ambience. It was amazing to meet fellow youth participants and organisers of the global forum. No matter how much you think you know about different countries, there is something to learn from any encounter in a multi cultural gathering.
Highlights of the forum for me included:
Visiting the Pura Taman Ayun Temple
Our special cultural dinner at Taman Bhagawan (previously featured on an episode of America’s Next Top Model)
Meeting the UN Secretary General – Ban ki Moon, High Representative of the UNAOC, Nassir Abdulaziz Al- Nasser and various other high level delegates and presidents.
Below is a photograph of the youth participants during a visit to the Pura Taman Ayun Temple.
This is just a snippet of my experience at the forum. Over the next few weeks I will be writing feature articles for various publications. Some of the articles will be about different break-out sessions and side events from the forum as well as a showcase of the arts and culture of Bali.
If you would like to read more about UNAOC visit UNAOC website
Visit the Bali Forum website here : Global Forums
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