by Maria Spiliopoulou, Valentini Anagnostopoulou
ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece, April 14 (Xinhua) -- Young students from across the globe gathered this week at ancient Olympia in western Greece, the birthplace of the Olympic Games 2,500 years ago, to exchange views on cultural heritage and send a strong message for its protection via UNESCO.
The 2nd Annual World Cultural Heritage Youth Symposium which started on April 11 ends on Sunday with participants co-signing the Ancient Olympia Youth Declaration condemning assaults and crimes committed against World Heritage sites and cultural diversity.
The declaration will be sent to UNESCO, Vasilis Papalyberis, President of the Hellenic Cultural and Educational Club for UNESCO which organized the forum, told Xinhua.
"The symposium's aim is to bring youth from different countries and different cultures together in a sacred place where after all the workshops they will participate in they will reach the conclusion that peace and democracy are values that should prevail in all countries, across the world, and raise their voice through the declaration they will sign," he explained.
A total of 180 students from schools from 14 countries, from Costa Rica to China and Norway to Oman, accompanied by their teachers, participated in the symposium which was held under the auspices of the Hellenic National Commission for UNESCO, the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sport and the Municipality of Ancient Olympia.
Given that one in every three people worldwide today is under the age of 30, investing in initiatives facilitating the communication and understanding between youth is an investment to a better world, Hellenic National Commission for UNESCO President Maria Ekaterini Papachristopoulou-Tzitzikosta said, addressing the opening ceremony.
"Youth are more informed and more connected than any other generation before...They are the ambassadors of peace, multicultural dialogue, no violence and equality. They can bring change in the way we live, behave, produce, consume and invest," she said.
"In an era where many are highlighting the elements that separate cultures, UNESCO stands against this confrontational logic and strongly endeavors those elements which unite cultures through dialogue," she stressed.
On his part, Isidoros Kouvelos, President of the International Olympic Academy which hosted the meeting at its premises for a second time, explained that the symposium was warmly embraced by the Olympic family, because it shares the same philosophy with the Olympic movement.
"To embrace the value of Olympism is a way of life. To create the appropriate conditions in order to foster a healthy dialogue among the representatives who will share their ideas, inspire one another with the spirit of friendship and develop their way of thinking in a cultural and educational context where each difference is eliminated and respect becomes an inherent part of their living," Kouvelos explained on the goals of the International Olympic Academy and the Olympic movement.
Dialogue is the key to build a better future, Mao Qiugui, teacher at Huangliu High School of No. 2 High School of East China Normal University in Ledong, Shanghai, who accompanied nine students to Greece, agreed.
"We want to provide a plan for the students to know more about the world and help them have the motivation to learn English well and think something about international affairs and learn something about the world and what teenagers in other countries do," she told Xinhua, explaining the reasons why the school sent a youth delegation to the symposium.
"Nowadays the world is getting connected, more and more connected, so I think it is very necessary for us to learn how to communicate with other people and appreciate other, different cultures," Qi Yuxiang, one of the Chinese students said.
"Meeting new people from other countries, I think, is the best part, the best thing in this symposium," Verica Stargo from North Macedonia added.
"It is a really great experience and I think it changes people," Felipe Rojas from Costa Rica told Xinhua on his impression from the forum.