Dialogue is crucial to preventing conflict and promoting mutual understanding in a world where people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds must coexist, according to Delfin Colome, executive director of the Asia- Europe Foundation.

Colome, while on a four-day visit to Tokyo to raise funds for the foundation’s projects, said such dialogue should be within a “biregional” framework between East and West.

“Diversity is not a bad thing,” Colome told The Japan Times. “Our intention is to put these people together so that they realize there are different ways of looking at (their) problems.”

ASEF, founded in 1997 by members of the Asia-Europe Meeting, is a Singapore-based nonprofit organization that promotes cultural and academic exchanges among the 15 nations of the European Union and 10 Asian countries and regions, including Japan, that belong to ASEM.

A former Spanish diplomat, Colome urged Japan, as a top contributor to the foundation, to continue providing financial support for ASEF projects, including a two-week program expected to be hosted soon by Keio University in which Asian and European students will be invited to attend symposiums and debates.

Colome said many Muslims around the world have faced hostility following the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States and continuing conflicts in the Middle East.

He also pointed out that people who emigrate from Southeast Asia to Europe often face hostility because some rightwing elements regard them as a threat to the identity of their nations.

Muslims make up a large proportion of the populations of some ASEF member countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the southern Philippines, Colome said.

The foundation hopes to help emigrants become better integrated in their new homes.

“We need more dialogue, dialogue and dialogue,” he stressed.

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