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Professor Manfred Peters Was Conferred a Doctor Honoris Causa Degree of Sofia University

At a solemn ceremony held in Aula magna of the Rectorate professor Manfred Peters was conferred a Doctor honoris causa degree of Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”. The proposal for the honorary distinction came from the Faculty of Classical and Contemporary Philology.

The ceremony was opened by the Dean of the Faculty of Classical and Contemporary Philology professor Madlen Danova who made a brief introduction of professor Peters.

Manfred Peters was born in Krombach, Belgium. He holds a PhD in philosophy and philology and is a professor at the University of Namur, Belgium. He has been the Dean for eight years of the Faculty of Philosophy and Philology and has also been the chairperson of the college of the deans of the Francophone Belgian universities.


Professor Peters is an acting member of the European Academy of Arts and Sciences and is the author of more than one hundred books and scientific publications in various languages (German, English, French, Japanese, Luxembourgish, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili. His research interests lie in the domain of XVIth century linguistic theories, sociolinguistics, intercultural dialogue, early language teaching, and critical reasoning education.

Professor Danova pointed out that in his capacity as President (2003 – 2008) of the Association of the Faculties of Philology and Philosophy of the Francophone Universities (AFELSH) – an institutional network of the of the University Agency of the Francophony, professor Manfred Peters organized in May, 2006, jointly with the association-member, the Faculty of Classical and Contemporary Philology, and international conference at Sofia University on the topic of “The Place of Philology and the Humanities in the 21st c. Society”. On his initiative, the final document of the conference – “the Sofia Manifesto” – an inspiringly relevant document of our times, was prepared: it argued for the constructive role of philology and the humanities in 21st c. society, was approved by the conference participants from Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Canada, France, Lebanon, North Macedonia, Madagascar, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Montenegro, Tunisia, Vietnam, and was circulated worldwide.


The Dean of the Faculty of Classical and Contemporary Philology also mentioned that for fifteen years professor Manfred Peters has been administering the accreditation of some one thousand faculties, scientific networks, research, doctoral and internship projects and scientific fora for the University Agency of the Francophony. During two three-year terms of office he was member of the Science Board of the Agency and continues being one of the most active members of the Expert Commission in Western Europe.

For more than a quarter of a century Manfred Peters has been President of the University of Peace, founded in 1960 by the Nobel Prize laureate Dominique Pire and is currently a member of its academic board. He is a delegate general of the European Organization of the Rights of Man, member of the Interuniversity Research Group with the participation of Belgian universities supporting the policies of peace, a member of the General Assembly of Research on Peace and the Civil Society at the Free University of Brussels, an expert at the National Research Fund of Luxembourg and the Austrian Academy of Sciences, a government representative at the German speaking community at the Federal Councilfor Scientific Policy, a member of the management board of literacy projects at King Baudouin Fpundation, a member of the Language and Labour Research Group at the National Centre of Scientific Research in Paris.


Professor Madlen Danova focused on a specific area in the impressive in its scope and depth scientific and social activities of professor Manfred Peters, namely, his field work in Africa, in Zimbabwe, in the domain of language policy; in Senegal as an organizer and participant in the Congress of Women Entrepreneurship; in Cote d’Ivoire – as a government aide for the growth of university education; in Madagascar – as an appraiser of the faculty of philology and the humanities and the sociolinguistic network; in the Democratic Republic of Congo – as an initiator, appraiser of developmental projects, organizer of scientific fora and publisher of a scientific journal; in Burundi and Rwanda – with activities in the domain of education and critical reappraisal.

Professor Danova stressed that for his special contribution to society, science, education and culture professor Manfred Peters was given the highest state awards of Belgium: he is a Knight of the Order of Leopold; a Great Knight of the Order of Leopold II; Commander of the Order of the Crown. laureate of high distinctions in Germany, Austria, and the USA.


Professor Manfred Peters was conferred the Doctor honoris causa degree of Sofia University by the Rector of Alma mater professor Dr habil Anastas Gerdzhikov. The Laureate expressed his deep gratitude to the academic community of Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohrdiski” for the awarding of the Doctor honoris causa degree. Professor Peters singled out the long years of fruitful cooperation that started in 2003, when he was elected President of one of the institutional networks at the University Agency of the Francophony – the Association of the Faculties and the High Schools of Philology and Philosophy.”I hope that our cooperation will continue, particularly in the field of African Studies at the Faculty of Classical and Contemporary Philology and it will stimulate the further growth of the partnership between the University of Namur and your venerable university – the first Bulgarian high school“, professor Peters added.


He delivered an academic lecture on the topic of “The French Language – a Vector of Cultures and Sciences”. Professor Peters pointed out that, since he has been working for the University Agency of the Francophony, he has found out worldwide – from Madagascar to Tunisia, from Argentina to Canada, from Italy to Georgia – how much alive the French language is and what a lot of love it inspires.

In his speech he recalled his first contacts with Bulgaria. In 2002 professor Manfred Peters was on a business trip to Bulgaria, his task was to study the functioning and efficiency of the foreign language schools. He singled out the exceptional hospitality of the local people and the exceptionally successful model of the foreign language schools, where, during their final year the students had excellent proficiency in French, English or German.

In his talk he drew attention to the very nature of language. In professor Peters’ words, the French language is one hundred per cent the language of the Enlightenment and it enjoys impressive influence: “In practice, today the language of Voltaire is the official language of international government and non-government organizations: the UN, UNESCO, the Council of Europe, the International Olympic Committee. What is more: French is spoken on the five continents. At present the International Organization of the Francophony (OIF) numbers 88 member-states and governments, and spread in seven world regions. 300 million are the speakers of the French language worldwide.; in 32 countries French has the status of an official language – on its own or together with other languages. Additionally, some 110 million people teach or study French outside the Francophone area“.


He pointed out that the vigour of a language is not displayed merely in figures and the means of oral and written expression in French are becoming of ever greater variety both within the same society and the whole Francophone community. In professor Peters’ words, every day passed brings its own neologisms – a treasure which can only make us happy. Due to such multifaceted verbal creativity, the French language still withholds and goes on developing, he pointed out.

Professor Manfred Peters noted that in world history the French language dared claim universality in its capacity as a means of communication in all cultural and scientific walks of life. Today, the French language is forced to accept its relative status, when competing with other languages in the most innovative domains, he said. In our minds, the French language has established itself over the years with its precision, its strict codification, allowing people to interact and share their researches and inventions, professor Peters pointed and added that a challenge facing today’s Francophony is to go back to that fundamental use of French in the research domain and establish its position there.

According to him, it is in the domain of science that we should be mostly aware of the advantages English over French because many scholars give precedence to the use of English in the sphere of the technology they use. Professor Peters explained it with the fact that scholars in each domain convene in view of their scientific interests, regardless of geographic obstacles. In order to communicate comfortably, the scholars often voice their desire to set up a lingua franca or adopt a language which should dominate on all the other without realizing that that is a chimera: both the development of language and science make that impossible.


“Nowadays the educated Francophone considers that he must use English if he is to be heard and become popular. However, the greater part of the French speaking scholars, who publish in Anglo-American journals or who present papers in English, translate the texts on their own and, as a rule, they do that rather poorly, professor Peters said and pointed out that in such a case such scholars leave the impression in the audience of a lack of clear reasoning and an unwieldy scientific approach. Such scholars are happy that they speak in front of a wide audience but they are not aware of the fact that the few thousand of experts present have failed to appreciate their abilities. Had they expressed themselves in French, they could have won a less numerous audience but the latter would have been far more perceptive, he added.

According to professor Peters the relations of force, which are established among the living languages, are due to a form of political, military or economic domination. American hegemony rests on a huge economic power base which is much ahead of the other countries, he pointed out and added that the economic power is of wide service to the development of highly complex information and communication technologies. In professor Peters’ opinion they are almost fully Anglo-American: the equipment, the software, the most comprehensive and largest databases are American. The access to such a comprehensive, up-to-date and fast information must go through the language of the machine, the software and the database.

„В един глобализиран свят самото развитие на науката и на технологиите е въпрос на политическа и финансова власт. Всички правителства на индустриалните страни осъзнават необходимостта от поддържане на равновесие между технологичното и икономическото развитие. Но само САЩ притежават нужните за целта финансови средства. На учените, които искат да участват в най-престижни прояви или поне да получават информация за върхови постижения, се налага да минават през езика на финансовата власт“, отбеляза проф. Манфред Петерс.

“In a globalized world the very development of science and technologies is a matter of political and financial power. All governments of the industrial countries are fully aware of the need to maintain a balance between the technological and the economic development. The USA is not the only country which possesses the necessary financial means. The scholars who want to participate in highly prestigious fora or to have at least access to the information of top achievements, it is necessary to be vetted by the language of financial power“, professor Manfred Peters remarked.


According to him, if the French speaking intellectuals in science and technology limit themselves only to English, the situation will be disastrous and will result in a regress and decay of a whole culture. Professor Manfred Peters added that we are faced by a problem of a moral and ethical character of real significance and not a single scholar should denigrate it. According to him, to counteract such a phenomenon of alienation through language, every person of culture should decline -- individually or collectively – to obey the will of a superpower. Every Francophone scholar must have the will to keep alive the French language in the service of science and technology, he added.

In professor Peters’ words, a priori, every language is a means of interpersonal communication. If the communication is successful, then language is a means of conveying to others what one thinks and feels, and, thus, we develop in the cultural and scientific sense of the word. Professor Peters pointed out that, in fact, the question should be posed from a historical, political and economic point of view: “Several centuries ago, in a different context French enjoyed a wider significance than today, for every scientific and cultural novelty was licensed in that language. The language enjoyed a wide scope at the expense of other languages (for example, Waloon in Belgium). In this respect we can compare it with contemporary English: at that time French was the conqueror“.



Professor Peters stressed that nowadays the French language keeps on being dynamic and constantly advances in an increasing number of areas. He pointed out that that was what mattered. Many people study it because it is one of the big world languages; it has also generated a very rich literature and innovative ideas of a whole epoch, he said and added: “Very many of the intellectuals take up French to be in direct touch with the real fountain of the huge Francophone heritage. From a cultural point of view, the language is and will remain being noble in the minds of the people“.

In conclusion professor Manfred Peters pointed out that although French “is running out of breath” in the technological and scientific domains, it is still in its essence a vector of sciences: “In future, French has to fight for its consolidation in all scientific domains. This is an issue of conscience and of taking of responsibility by all Francophones and by all those who love the language of Voltaire. Ladies and gentlemen, your presence at this ceremony comes to confirm your readiness to face such a challenge“.