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The opening ceremony of ICDO’s Long Night of Intercultural Dialogue officially kicked off at the Wiener Rathaus with a costume show moderated by Heather Wokusch and Philipp Grüll in English and German, respectively. From Austria to Zambia, fifteen countries revealed their traditional costumes in a stunning display, provided by VIC Club Filipino, VIC Russian Club, Folklore Ensemble ‘Šokadija Beč’ and many others. Over fifty beautifully-crafted costumes emphasized the importance of safeguarding diversity; while at the same, showing how cultures constantly inspire and influence each other. The audience was captivated by the traditional Indonesian and Filipino dance performances that inaugurated and concluded the costume show.

Balinese traditional dance at Rathaus. Photo by Abdulla Abood.

During the opening ceremony, the President and CEO of ICDO, Josipa Palac, explained the goals for the Long Night of Intercultural Dialogue:

“We are here to promote and educate on the differences between cultures. We are here to promote the message of equality of individuals in every society. We are also here to support multiculturalism in society and every form of diversity as an enhancing factor in society. We are trying to present the role of migrants as participants in society for the purpose of changing the general perception of migrants.”

A symposium followed, during which attendees were able to hear from experts in various fields and join in the discussion titled, ‘Collaborating Minds: Diversity’s Role in a Modern Society’. The symposium was moderated by Jürgen Peindl, the news presenter and editor-in-chief of Puls4, with the speakers:

Dr. Hermann Mückler, an expert on cultural and social anthropology with a focus on historical topics; Rubina Möhring, president of the Austrian section of “Reporters without Borders”; Dr. Anthony Löwstedt, media communications professor and advisor to ICDO; Tomislav Stipic, Partner and tax consultant at ARTUS; and Anne-Marie Avramut, vice-president of the Eurasian Academy of Arts. Subsequently, the attendees had an opportunity to mingle with the speakers and participants alike, to discuss the various festivities of the day.

At Altes Rathaus, the attendees were greeted with a live piano performance by Ambassador of Integration and CEO of the Chocolate Museum, Jovana Misaljevic, and vocals from the international award-winning vocalist, Kim Cooper.

Symposium Speakers and Josipa Palac in Rathaus. Photo by Carmen Ciobanu.

Live music performance at Altes Rathaus. Photo by Abdulla Abood.

Together, they captivated the audience and encouraged them to sing along to “Lean On”. The local and international speakers followed with a panel discussion titled ‘Living the Diversity: Witnessing the Change’. The panel was enthusiastically moderated by Mr. World Austria 2017-18, Alberto Nodale, and inspired by the moving tales of Rania Mustafa Ali and Suad Mohamed, who shared their migration journeys to Austria and the challenges of living away from their home countries.

Rania described the beginning of her journey, viewed over nine million times online: “Overnight my life was upside down as many of the lives of other Syrians. I once heard that one of the tragic consequences of war is innocent bystanders. I was one of those bystanders and I had to escape with my family several times. I was displaced over four times; I escaped from Raqqa to Kobani, went to Turkey and then went back to Kobani, and then left Syria again.”

ICDO’s art exhibition, ‘Perspectives. Diversity. Art.’ at the Yunus Emre Institute presented a diverse range of artists showcasing their messages about cultural diversity through their artwork, featuring independent artists and artists sourced from the VIC Art Club, the Eurasian Academy of Arts, and the Latin American Institute. Workshops with traditional Turkish Coffee and aperitifs introduced the patrons to Turkish cuisine, while traditional Turkish Ebru Watercolor Marbling Workshops offered participants a fun and novel method to experience a new culture.

The Chocolate Museum Vienna added a sweet taste to the evening. They presented the fascinating history of chocolate around the world with enlightening lectures. Afterward, attendees had a go at making their own chocolate or trying out indigenous chocolate drinks at the Chocolate Tasting workshops, before visiting the museum. At the OBB Hauptbahnhof Station, migrants and professionals engaged in an open dialogue with participants.

The night ended on a high note with an exclusive, invite-only Gala Dinner and Closing Ceremony at Palais Wertheim, organized by ICDO. Between courses of delicious food, the attendees were greeted with a traditional Sri Lankan dance by the Nartakah Dancing Academy and folk songs by the Russian Folklore Ensemble, Kalinka. The evening culminated with the first ICDO Annual Excellence Award given to Dr. Manfred Nowak, an internationally recognized Human Activist, Secretary-General of the European Inter-University Center for Human Rights and Democratisation (EIUC), one of the former judges in the Human Rights Chamber for Bosnia and Herzegovina, former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Director of Arts and Human Rights at the University of Vienna, co-director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Human Rights, former functionary for the Council of Europe, the EU, and other inter-governmental organizations.

ICDO award given by Josipa Palac and Toni Pehar to Manfred Nowak. Photo by Danijela Bog.

Most of the ICDO team at Rathaus Opening Ceremony. Photo by Carmen Ciobanu.

With support from Kosmo, ORF, Society, and many other sponsors, ICDO was delighted to welcome many people from a vast array of backgrounds who joined the celebrations of cultural diversity through music, food, art, costume and dance performances, speeches and discussions. The Long Night of Intercultural Dialogue was open to everyone, free-of-charge.

Josipa Palac, President of ICDO, concluded, “ICDO and its diverse team have worked hard these last few months to deliver to you a unique experience through the Long Night of Intercultural Dialogue. Our team is a great example of people with different backgrounds, religions and languages, which, through communication and sharing of experiences, can create something truly beautiful.”