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School of Modern Languages welcomes French Ambassador

27 March 2015

French Ambassador

The School of Modern Languages was honoured to host a visit to Cardiff University by the French Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Her Excellency Sylvie Bermann on 16 March 2015.

Her Excellency arrived in Cardiff on Monday and enjoyed a lively round table discussion that afternoon with Cardiff University colleagues, including Dr Nick Parsons, Deputy Head of the School of Modern Languages.

On Tuesday, Her Excellency's visit continued with a talk entitled 'Dieu et mon droit: freedom of expression and religion in the public space' which was delivered to a busy auditorium of over 100 students and staff. The Ambassador's speech was both insightful and fascinating and discussed the notion of laïcité. Laïcité is central to the Republican institutions and principles of the French state and refers to the absence of religious involvement in governmental affairs, as well as the absence of government involvement in religious affairs.

Ambassador Bermann drew parallels between France and Great Britain as two democratic nations facing common challenges in the fight against religious extremism. She spoke about the tragic events which took place in Paris and Copenhagen following the publication of a cartoon in the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo. She also spoke of common challenges in responding to young British and French Muslims who have joined Islamic State militants in Syria.

Ambassador Bermann explained that she sees education and the state school system as the key arena for helping to eradicate extremism. She suggested that, in France, there would be greater focus on discussing all religious cultures in school in order to encourage debate and understanding.

After her talk, Her Excellency took time to meet a group of students enrolled on the Cardiff-Bordeaux Joint Degree-Diploma in Politics – an initiative between the Department of Politics and International Relations at Cardiff University and the Institute of Political Studies, Bordeaux.

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