The Ministry of Culture is thinking about setting up a cultural center in Istanbul, Turkey, to facilitate cultural exchanges between Taiwan and the Islamic world, Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai (龍應台) said yesterday.
Taiwan has been focused mostly on building networks within the US and Europe, Lung said at a meeting in Taipei with Safak Pavey, a member of the Turkish parliament and a human rights activist.
“We would like to build more connections with Latin America and the Islamic world, with Turkey for example, so that our worldview is not narrowed to only a Euro-American centered view,” the minister said in English.
Istanbul is a place “where the East meets the West,” and Taiwanese artists and the general public could benefit much from learning more about Islamic art, religion and their way of life, said Lung, who visited Istanbul in 1978.
Taiwan and Turkey could promote writer exchanges and organize film festivals, she said.
In response, Pavey said she would do everything in her power to help make the idea of a Taiwanese cultural center in Istanbul a reality and that she hoped the proposal would be embraced by her country.
She also agreed that books and words are very powerful tools for learning about other cultures and that Turkey and Taiwan should have more exchanges in those areas.
Meanwhile, Lung said she respected Pavey’s success in creating a life for herself after she lost her left arm and leg in a train accident in Switzerland in 1996.
The minister urged Pavey, a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to explore the possibility of having the committee work with Taiwanese non-governmental organizations to assist the disabled.
In response, the parliamentarian said: “Certainly, any way to empower human rights in any respect, I shall be ready, as long as I am holding this position.”
Pavey said she hopes to learn during her one-week visit how Taiwan has succeeded in various fields, including culture, despite its political isolation.
Taiwan currently has three cultural centers abroad — in New York, Tokyo and Paris. The ministry said last month that it plans to also set up centers in London and Moscow and increase the number to 11.
Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Ertugrul Gunay said last month that Turkey was eager to promote cultural relations with countries around the world, including China, and that it would also like to build ties with Taiwan.
In response to Gunay’s remark, Lung told reporters after her meeting with Pavey that she hopes to focus a lot on Turkey, given its rich history and its art and religious culture.
She said young people in Taiwan should learn more about Turkey, which she described as a moderate Islamic country that could serve as a bridge for Taiwan into the Islamic world.