24th June, 2013 –
Every year, in a remote village in Sweden, a select group of people from around the world gathers to discuss the fate of our planet and how we, collectively, affect it. The village is called Tallberg, on the beautiful lake Siljan.
The air in Tallberg is clean, the roads are green, houses and hotels are all made of wood, and the natives have a sense of pride and attachment to their roots that most people seem to lack nowadays.
The setting triggers a unique form of consciousness – a universal awareness of mankind’s priorities – one that is perfect for a global forum, one that combines issues that people from all corners of the planet can relate to. A friend and I were fortunate enough to attend the 2013 Tallberg Forum and I would like to share some of our experiences.
We arrived in Tallberg the night before the forum at approximately 11pm. The sun had just begun to set and the area was so quiet that I was rattled by the sound of my own thoughts. It’s surprising how many thoughts swarm your mind when there is no constant noise pollution to distract you.
The forum’s theme for the year was “Globalization – the world at a crossroads”. The theme gave us a sense of urgency; that these were times when one must act now or forever hold their peace. Soon enough, the moderators engaged the audiences with eye-opening discussions about sustainability, global politics, the digital revolution, and – of course – Syria.
To illustrate how slow the world was addressing the issue of Syria, a handful of participants imitated the UN Security Council, discussing each nation’s primary concerns towards Syria. They asked the audience to show a vote of hands; who agreed with military intervention in Syria and who opposed. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority agreed.
However, we were bluntly reminded of the veto powers of the five permanent Security Council members. All it took was one veto from either China or Russia to allow the Syrian regime to continue the massacres.
The next day we chose from various other conversations that took place. The conversation we chose to attend was about culture and religion in the Middle East, hosted by HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
Prince Turki opened the discussion by addressing the Middle East’s most pressing issues – from the Syrian conflict to the international media’s role in perpetuating Middle Eastern stereotypes. The Prince asserted the need for immediate intervention in Syria, acknowledging that Russia and China have begun to reconsider their position and that if they had reconsidered their position one year ago at least 50,000 lives could have been saved.
HRH also mentioned Bahrain, addressing the media’s highly biased coverage of events as of the uprisings in 2011. He stressed that stability was a necessary component for progress in any nation, and that if people want to see progress in Bahrain it is imperative that they work towards its stability.
The crowd responded surprisingly well to the discussion. Yet, I was surprised by the lack of knowledge about Bahrain. Even among the CEOs, government officials, journalists, diplomats and other highly educated individuals – people had either not heard of Bahrain or had the notion that Bahrain was a warzone – a perspective that my colleague and I found most frustrating.
We took it upon ourselves to set the rumors straight. This did not mean painting a pretty picture as though nothing was happening in Bahrain, nor did it mean regurgitating the usual sectarian rhetoric used today.
Rather, we acknowledged that are some serious issues in Bahrain, but that the country – as a whole – was working hard to rectify these grievances through a process of dialogue, which would eventually lead to reconciliation.
It might be a slow process, but nonetheless, it is a steady one. It is a process that will require all Bahrainis to show commitment, endurance, and resilience in the face of those who threaten our stability.
As HRH Prince Turki told participants: Without stability there can be no progress – and without progress stability cannot be maintained.