Strengthening Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue through Knowledge Sharing
Brief summary of presentation of information made
H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) opened the meeting.
H.E. Mr. Álvaro Albacete, on behalf of the Secretary General of KAICIID, delivered the opening remarks.
- The goal is to drown out hate speech. We must fill communication channels with good messages to take away the space that violent speech needs.
- This is true online and in person. The internet is wonderful for sharing knowledge – but we have to make sure it is good knowledge.
- It may be hard to measure the exact impact of dialogue, but I know that no dialogue at all leads to problems of mistrust and misunderstanding.
Several other speakers made opening statements.
H.E. Mr. Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the UN
- Intercultural conflicts arise for a number of reasons, including linguistic, ethnic and religious differences. But that diversity is here to stay. The task is changing the perspective on them, so that they are seen as beneficial.
H.E. Mr. Philipp Charwath, Deputy Permanent Representative of Austria to the UN
- In all cases of the end of a destructive conflict, we can see one thing in common: dialogue.
- A UNESCO survey found that 71% of participating countries had some state-sponsored intercultural dialogue programme. Clearly it works.
H.E. Ms. Belén Alfaro, Ambassador to UNAOC for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Spain
- The focus of peacebuilding work should be in two areas: Education and internet
- More intercultural education, so that kids get exposure to the beauty in diversity.
- We must put in the effort to design programs for school settings that are both engaging and constructive.
- We should target young people, women and religious leaders. Religious leaders need training in modern technology and techniques in order to facilitate dialogue.
The meeting then moved to a series of presentations from academics and practitioners.
Professor Patrice Brodeur, Institute of Religious Studies at the University of Montréal
- Dialogue is part of a process. The end goal of the process is to build lasting, sustainable peace.
- KAICIID has a number of tools available for dialogue facilitation and peacebuilding. These include:
- A peace map to track what other organisations are doing. We track 465 operations, 80% of which are led by nonreligious organisations.
- A selected list of best practices.
- Statements for peaceful coexistence issued by prominent religious leaders (both local and global) and selected by KAICIID to show that religion and violence do not go together.
- A list of contacts – ‘who’s who in interreligious dialogue’.
- The goal is to plan, schedule and inform. We also want to keep in mind how we make information available, to make it not exclusively for those with internet access.
Professor Katherine Marshall of Georgetown University, Executive Director of World Faiths Development Dialogue (WFDD)
- WFDD has had many challenges measuring/documenting the successes and failures of interreligious work.
- We try to balance hard data with personal experiences.
- Important international summits such as the G20 often fail to consider religious voices. WFDD is working to start interfaith discussions as the G20.
- The demand for robust knowledge is clearly there. The knowledge itself exists. How do we bridge the gap, and create a healthy dialogue?
Ms. Annamaria Olsson, Founder of Give Something Back to Berlin (GSBTB)
- GSBTB wants to affect refugees’ lives at three levels. Personal, local and national/global.
- Personal: For migrants, arriving in a new city is daunting and challenging. We want to help with social integration and language skills to make life more enjoyable.
- Local: communities/groups, especially ethnic ones, often remain isolated from each other. We want to bring those communities together to create one big healthy city.
- National/global: xenophobia and nationalism are on the rise. We hope to counteract them through our personal and local work.
- The central focus is on the friendships. Whether it is language learning, cooking classes or something else, the emphasis is on building relationships and making connections.
Ms. Samira Luka, Senior Director for Dialogue at the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Service (CEOSS)
- We target several specific groups that we want to capacitate to lead dialogues. Religious leaders, media professionals, academics, young people and artists.
- There are different methods to building connections with each one, but they all will be part of a new generation.
Ms. Sara Zaini, Co-Founder of Emkan Education
- We want to use the voices of students, teachers and parents to bridge the gap between government decision-makers and others.
- In our education curriculums and schools, we’re not just focused on test scores. We want to improve the whole experience, which builds capacity through education technology and a more involved and participatory curriculum.
Ms. Velma Saric, President of Post-Conflict Research Center (PCRC) of Bosnia and Herzegovina
- At the PCRC, our focus is on preventing violent extremism and sexual violence (which was rampant during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s).
- We have learned that the research and monitoring cannot end after ceasefire. Post-conflict research is key to preventing a slide back into hostility.
What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?
The meeting showed the need for more faith-based voices in these conversations. The topic was interreligious dialogue, and yet not a single speaker represented a faith-based organisation. While there were a number of FBO representatives attending the meeting, it was discouraging that none was asked to be a speaker.
Rather than taking a singular focus on promoting dialogue, perhaps The Salvation Army could make great strides by integrating it into its existing programs. For example, diversity training and dialogue could take on a more prominent role in the curriculum at Army schools, or relationship-building activities could become part of local Army refugee response.
Web links for more information
http://www.kaiciid.org/dialogue-knowledge-hub KAICIID’s knowledge database
https://www.unaoc.org/2018/07/remarks-event-strengthening-interreligious-intercultural-dialogue-through-knowledge-sharing/ Transcription of the opening remarks from H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-NasserTags: United Nations, SDG10: Reduced Inequalities, SDG16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, SDG4: Quality Education, Events, SDG17: Partnerships for the Goals