Cultural Exchange Missions: The Importance of Participation

Richard GabrielRichard Gabriel, a member of the NCBA’s International Law & Practice Section and frequent participant in the attorney exchange program, reflects on the 2010 excursion to Turkey in light of the recent terrorist attack at the Istanbul Atatürk Airport.

The world seems different at night, in the absence of the brightness of the daytime. So it was, late at night, not resting, up to grab a book and turn on the TV, sound muted out of respect for those asleep. Then the vision on the tube, eerily familiar, not really sure, and the crawler at the bottom of the screen announces yet again, a bombing at an airport.

The panic on the screen, all too familiar scenes of turmoil, fear, hurriedly hit the sound button, and then the realization: I have been there before, the airport at Istanbul, Turkey.

Thoughts come in a flood: Alp, were you there at the time of the explosion, meeting another group of visitors and preparing to show them your country?

In 2010 the third Cultural Exchange Mission visited Turkey. First to Taiwan, then to Argentina, now to Turkey, the International Law & Practice Section of the N.C. Bar Association organized and the NCBA sponsored a visit by a delegation seeking knowledge about the rule of law in another country, exchanging ideas, one on one with judges and prosecutors and civil and criminal attorneys, seeing cases tried in their courts, visiting law schools, meeting professors and military personnel and elected officials.

Captain Mustafa, were you on duty when this occurred?

Ephesus, so full of history, ruins that literally come to life, history exemplified, red poppies scattered across the landscape; and now contrasted with the red color of blood scattered in the airport. Ephesus, where the gladiators did battle and the tradesmen carved their “trademark” in the stone paths and over thirty thousand multi-cultural peoples lived together in peace.

Habibe, Fulya, Tolga, were your friends or family caught in this attack?

A modern country, Turkey is seen as a bridge between Asia and Europe, quite literally so. Modernized criminal codes, an international commercial center, engaging, delightful, beautiful people, friendly and warm, proud and accomplished, eager to share with us, extending hospitality in every meeting, gracious and kind.

Sinan, Pinar, Efe, are you ok? Were you there when this happened?

Now, perhaps more so than ever, it is important to share ideas, thoughts, learning, skills, reinforce the rule of law, promote understanding of one another’s culture, history. Exchange knowledge of ways to resolve disputes. Promote justice, equality through the rule of law, get to know one another, all of those purposes that the Cultural Exchange fosters and promotes.

Had I not participated in the Exchange program, this would have been another sad news story, of interest certainly, but a bit remote, perhaps just “news” and then on to another matter. But I think of Sadaat, and remember Ahmet, and Bahadin, and Feridun, and wonder what happened to my friends, our fellow attorneys and judges and law professors and elected officials.

The Exchange promotes professional relationships as well as cultural understanding. It fosters common understanding of resolution of disputes, adherence to the rule of law, how things are done in other cultures. More importantly, perhaps, it brings us together in unexpected ways.

Then another day, back to the reality of our world. Yet I wonder, are our colleagues safe? Were their families or friends a casualty in this event? Is the rule of law safe?

Richard Gabriel practices law in Greensboro with Gabriel Berry Weston & Wells, L.L.P.



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