The Europe Lecture “Destruction of Cultural Heritage”
Cultural heritage at risk: protecting cultural heritage in times of conflict
Her Excellency Ms Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO
Her Excellency Ms Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi, President of the International Criminal Court
H.R.H Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, UNESCO Special Envoy on Literacy for Development
Honourable moderator Ms Sneska Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic, Secretary-General of Europa Nostra
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am honoured to be speaking here today and responding to this important speech by Ms Bokova in this Europe Lecture. Europe itself is a continent which’s heritage I am personally connected to through my Scandinavian experience.
The Director-General has made the point that UNESCO values cultural heritage as a bond for the humanity we all share. I of course share this view…
I was 14 when my family fled from the Somali civil war and ended up in Sweden.
I witnessed the destruction of the ancient quarters of my hometown Mogadishu.
I was a refugee in Sweden when I became fascinated by European pre-history and enrolled for Lund University.
I felt at home in Sweden through its heritage and human stories.
However, I learned also about archaeology and political groups when in 2002 riots took place in India because radical Hindu nationalists destroyed a 500 years old mosque in the ancient
town of Ayodhya.
I published my first academic paper on the Ayodhya conflict.
I mention this example because historically, intentional destruction, as we know, is not something new or limited to a region of the world, it has taken place throughout history.
In fact, after reading up on this very church we are in this evening I learned that it used to have a catholic iconography destroyed during the iconoclasm of the reformation in the 16th (beeldenstorm).