Young students from across the globe gathered in Greece, in Athens and Ancient Olympia, 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 in Athens on the 10th April with the Opening Ceremony and ended on the 14th April in Ancient Olympia 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, on the 21st May, date of the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.
“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,” explained Mr. Vasilis Papalyberis, President of the Hellenic Cultural and Educational Club for UNESCO and Head of the Organizing Committee of the Symposium.
A total of 180 students from schools from 14 countries, (Andorra, Austria, China, Costa Rica, Denmark, Hellas, Hungary, Italy, Oman, Malta, North Macedonia, Russia, Slovenia, Turkey) accompanied by their teachers, participated in the symposium which was held under the auspices of the Hellenic National Commission for UNESCO, the International Olympic Academy, the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sport and the Municipality of Ancient Olympia and the support of the United Nations Regional Office in Greece, of the European Parliament Information Office in Greece and of the Hellenic Association of Political Scientists.
“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” the President of the Hellenic National Commission for UNESCO, 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, are the goals of the International Olympic Academy and the Olympic movement”.
Georgios Markopouliotis, Head of the Representation of the European Committee in Greece, stressed during his speech in the Opening Ceremony the importance of such initiatives like the World Cultural Heritage Youth Symposium not only for Europe, but for the whole World and their contribution for a better future.
According to Dimitris Fatouros, Communication Officer of the United Nations Regional Information Centre, the World Cultural Heritage Youth Symposium is not only promoting the 17 Goals for Sustainable Development, but it also helps to educate the Leaders of Today and Tomorrow.
In the Opening Ceremony a variety of performances took place with the participation of students of the Hellenic-American Educational Foundation, the Hellenic College of Thessaloniki and the 1st EPAL Ymittou.
This year’s “Delegation of Honor” was Costa Rica. The teachers and students of the delegation gave an amazing performance during the Opening Ceremony.
The teachers of the Costa Rican delegation also organized a workshop during the Symposium, while another workshop was organized by the Italian delegation, St. Stephen’s School Rome.
Workshops were also organized by Mrs. Helena Bazini, on behalf of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports – Directorate of Modern Cultural Heritage, by Dr. Eleftheria Gkrimpa, Creator & Volunteer Trainer of the Free Multi-awarded Educational initiative “Junior Tourist/Consumer-A Traveling Suitcase” and MSc Evangelia Gkrimpa, Coordinator & Volunteer Moderator of the same Initiative and Mrs. Glykeria Psara, MSc. PhD, Research and teaching associate, Rutgers University, NJ, USA.
All delegations had the chance to present the Cultural Heritage of their homeland and to visit the Archeological sites, the Museum of Ancient Olympia and the Archimedes Museum.
“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 said 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.
All delegations renewed their appointment in Greece and in the sacred city of Ancient Olympia for April 2020 for the 3rd World Symposium.
AEGEAN, ANDANIA, Autohellas Hertz, DIGIGATE, HBH, INTERAMERICAN, Mastihashop, MINOAN LINES, PAPOUTSANIS, ProAV were the World Cultural Heritage Youth Symposium’s sponsors. The Head of the Organizing Committee, Mr. Vasilis Papalyberis stressed in his speech in the Opening Ceremony, that the contribution of these companies was significant and that “these companies do not only like to speak in theory about the Sustainable Development Goals, but they actually support actions like the World Cultural Heritage Youth Symposium by acknowledging that the only way to a better future is by educating the children.”
The Opening Ceremony of the World Cultural Heritage Youth Symposium 2019 was broadcasted live. In the foyer of the Athens College Theatre, were the Opening Ceremony took place, the exhibition “SYRIA REVEALED – STORIES TOLD BY CHILDREN” with paint works of the students of the Primary School of Sises, Rethymno – Crete was hosted, as well as an exhibition with Greek traditional costumes presented by 1st EPAL Ymittou.