No more just a slogan


28, September 1786

Venice is no more a simple word, an empty name, such as those that have plagued me, I, mortal enemy of empty words!

This is not an error, this is not a lapse.
The date at the top of this article is correct, or at least, partially correct.
On 28 September 1786 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe arrived in Venice.
This marked a turning point in the writer’s thoughts: Venice wasn’t any longer just the name of a city that was quintessentially associated with the concept of beauty, but for the writer it became something tangible and true, something which he could write about.

In the same way, something similar happened on the 8th of May 2016 at the VeU Model United Nations during the meeting of SOCHUM, when twenty-four delegates tried to shape the concept of preservation of Syrian identity from abstract to concrete. The preservation of cultural heritage is no more a slogan or an uncomfortable question – as it often happens – but it became part of reality, something that can be explained in an article and something that all people can acknowledge.
Both turning points have taken place in Venice: same place, but different circumstances. In 18th century Venice, Goethe was accompanied by a small group of people in a quest for concealed knowledge; three centuries later the preservation of Syrian identity has been deepened by twenty-five delegates, under the supervision of three chairs.

To condemn the illicit trafficking of the Syrian cultural heritage; to support the improvement of already existing international funds and call the international community for steady force deployment; to encourage countries to protect Syrian intangible culture worldwide in order to preserve it for future generations. These are just a few of the main focus that characterise the meeting of SOCHUM, without denying the presence of some contrasts such as the one between Israel and Iraq, skillfully soften by the intervention of the delegate of People’s Republic of China.

Ideological contrasts that, initially hindered the development of the dialogue but, at the same time, revealed themselves to be very useful in setting the foundations for the birth of new points of view, new ideas and new reasons that lead to the cooperation amongst all countries. The courage of the Iraqi delegate – regarding his strict stance – can be summarised in these verses of “Lay of ancient Rome” written by the roman poet Orazio:

And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, For the ashes of his fathers, And the temples of his gods.

Sometimes it is necessary to abandon the heroic courage to pursue our ideologies in order to analyse other points of view, other reasons and other motivations. In this case, relying on a moderate courage is better than stubbornly persisting in its own position; it means that, on the one hand, all delegates have to carry out their reasons, but on the other hand they have to be able to understand the reasons, the points of view, the ideas, the motivations and the perseverance of the delegates of other countries.

This cooperation – also under the massive effort of the delegate of People’s Republic of China – has taken place at the meeting of SOCHUM in San Servolo island – Venice. The final resolution about the preservation of Syrian cultural heritage has been sponsored by The Republic of Angola, People’s Republic of China, Arab Republic of Egypt, Lebanese Republic, New Zealand, Russian Federation, Kingdom of Spain, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela; and the signatories are Eastern Republic of Uruguay, French Republic, Hellenic Republic, Italian Republic, Japan, Kingdom of Morocco, Malaysia, Republic of Armenia, Republic of Senegal, Republic of Turkey, State of Israel, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United Mexican States.

Emanuele Cicero Università IUAV di Venezia Venice, 8 May 2016