KAICIID Advisory Forum Establishes 2017 Action Plans

07 Feb 2017
Advisory Forum Taskforce Meeting

The International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) hosted the second Advisory Forum meeting from 6 to 7 February to establish task forces that will direct the future work of the Forum. The issue-specific task forces will focus on Capacity Building in the Field of IRD, Governance and Common Citizenship, IRD Training, and Reconciliation and have established action plans for their work, explored synergies and discussed how they will advise KAICIID on its programmes.

Throughout the two days of plenary and breakout sessions, a theme emerged from the dialogue to focus on moving beyond tolerance of the ‘other’ to acceptance and mutual respect to secure social cohesion and peace. The Secretary General of KAICIID, Faisal Bin Muaammar echoed this message in his address to the Advisory Forum in the closing session and emphasised the importance of interreligious dialogue in creating an environment for appreciation and mutual respect.

“Now is a time of dramatic and sometimes alarming changes. Now is a time for unity – not only tolerance among religions. We need to move beyond simply tolerating the other because only through appreciation and respect can communities in opposition live together. Interreligious dialogue is the medium through which we help the ‘others’ experience that we value their religious traditions. By valuing each other, we build resilient coexistence.”

The diverse and seasoned practitioners, religious leaders and scholars spoke about their concerns and experiences in dialogue. Shared experiences showed there are many commonalities in the goals of the Advisory Forum members and many synergies among the diverse and dedicated group of leaders and peacemakers who are committed to working together across religious, ethnic and political lines.

“Today we don’t need walls. We need bridges,” said His Holiness Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of Parmarth Niketan Ashram of Rishikesh, India. “We need to have the value of not only tolerance, but of acceptance and respect. Today we need the music of oneness and we need the music of togetherness and we need the music of love and harmony and respect.”

“It is our responsibility as religious leaders to show the world that we can stand shoulder to shoulder with other faiths and ethnicities and communities – that we can fight for the other,” said Rabbi Marc Schneier, President of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. “We must keep aglow the light of understanding and caring that truly enables us to see one another.”

Dr. Rosalle Ewell, Executive Director of the Theological Commission for the World Evangelical Alliance, spoke from her experience as a biologist on the unique nature of the Advisory Forum. She equated it to an ‘edge’, meaning, in biological terms, a boundary between two habitats that fosters unique forms of interaction and life. To Ewell, the Forum itself is an edge where different cultures, peoples and religions meet and interact.

“Certain things can thrive in ways that they might not thrive elsewhere. In terms of cultures, one of the great things about edges is that they can be beneficial, and we can see life flourish in ways that are challenging – in good ways – so that people are transformed and learn about one another and create something that is unique together. For our work here at KAICIID, it's about how can we create and be part of beneficial edges.”

In the closing plenary, each task force presented action plans and objectives for 2017. As a whole, the Advisory Forum members committed to advocating for dialogue and supporting KAICIID programmes through increasing visibility of KAICIID’s work and seeking synergies with other organizations and networks to promote partnerships and cooperation. 

The task forces also determined specific goals for their work within the next year, such as facilitating interactions between policymakers, religious leaders and communities to advocate for dialogue, promote human rights including religious freedom and to support the efforts of dialogue practitioners in the field. Other objectives included promoting common citizenship, support for refugees and empowering youth through dialogue education, providing safe spaces for dialogue and acknowledging young peoples’ role in promoting peace.

The Advisory Forum

The Advisory Forum is a consultative body comprised of influential leaders from world religions and religious and cultural institutions and communities representing more than 20 countries. The Forum supports the activities of the KAICIID Board of Directors and advises on their programs.

The Advisory Forum consists of leading figures from the religious, non-governmental and intergovernmental fields from over 20 countries. In the initial session of the Forum, Ela Gandhi, founder of the Gandhi Development Trust and granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi (South Africa), and Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia were elected as co-chairs of the Advisory Forum. In total the Forum numbers 47 experts in interreligious dialogue and can over time expand to include 100 in total.