Dialogue Knowledge Hub
Organization of Informal Dialogue Meetings
Activity: Structure and Needs
The event can be organized individually, via student associations, advertisements online or in newspapers, religious associations etc. For example, meetings between classes or religious groups could be organized on a regular basis throughout the year, with every party hosting successively one encounter each. Another option could be to offer week-long seminars, enabling a more intense experience through more in-depth dialogue. An appropriate and quiet setting (class room, homes) is strongly advised but not always mandatory. This means, that individual people could also invite other people to meet in a coffee shop or in their houses just to exchange thoughts for a couple of hours. It is recommended to pursue such an activity on a regular basis, as this continuity is what is possible to deepen understanding through which can emerge trust in the other so that all participants can speak their minds more freely.
Objectives: Impact and Focus
This is a promising practice because it allows anyone who is curious about the other to show up and ask questions in an informal environment, without fear of judgement. Links between diverse people are easily established as the events are mostly open for anyone, as long as each one participating ensures that this is a safe space. Organizing does not require muchlogistics, meaning that anyone can reproduce the practice easily. Discussing and exchanging each other’s thoughts freely is therefore facilitated. There is no obligation imposed on anyone, making the encounters more of an opportunity than an enforced act or requirement. In some instances, this enables people from different countries to meet for the first time (e.g. via skype for instance).
Field Data: Examples and Sources (Activity – Organisation – Location)
1.) Meet a Muslim – Moina Shaiq (individual) – San Francisco, USA
Moina Shaiq organized “Meet a Muslim”, through inviting people to visit her coffee shop. The meetings take place on a regular (daily/weekly) basis to openly address any question the guests may have or topics they are curious about. These questions treat far-ranging topics, from ISIS to the veil. Moina Shaiq initially advertised the meetings through posting an ad in a newspaper, saying that she, as a Muslim, would make herself available to anyone who would like to meet and speak to her. She drew the inspiration to do this promising practice from the experience that many people in the US say ‘I have never met a Muslim’.
2.) Talk better Together – The Interfaith Youth Core – Chicago, Illinois, USA
The Interfaith Youth Core implemented “Talk Better Together” as a first step in their Better Together campaign. It permits young people on variety of kinds of campuses to organize interfaith actions. In 2014, 152 campuses all over the United States participated in the Better Together Campaign, growing year by year. Students meet in a room big enough to welcome all the participants to this event. Several questions are written on a board. They will start simply (What is your favourite movie?) and will subsequently become more focused on the personal background and beliefs. All the participants will then have to find a partner. Each one will have a number. Then, the participants have to form two concentric circles, 1s in the inner circle and 2s in the outer circle. The organizer asks the first question, and gives the pairs 3-4 minutes to discuss. Then, the 2s rotate to the right every five minutes, asking a new question each time. At the end of the event, the organiser encourages everyone to talk to someone they did no talk to in the circle about something they learned, something they found inspiring, or event just to finish a conversation from a previous question. The events take place once a week or once a month, depending on availability.
3.) Exchanges between religious schools – The Makassed Foundation – Beirut, Lebanon
The Makassed Foundation has initiated student exchanges between Sunni and Christian schools, taking place several times a year. Students who are approximately the same age participate to freely discuss their concerns regarding the others and exchange contact details to see each other again. It has created a space of encounter and even built relationships between the parents who have lived through the Lebanese civil war.
4.) Interfaith Discrimination Group Talks – The Ibuka organization – Kigali, Rwanda
The Ibuka organization was created after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda to get people to speak out about their trauma. An animator comes to town and gets people who were victims of aggression to talk about the discriminations they have suffered. Others listen before they speak in turn. The animator writes a personal report about those who are most in danger to direct them towards a psychologist and keeps on organizing group sessions with the rest of them. Ibuka is present in all the villages of Rwanda and holds regular sessions and follow-up with their participants.
5.) Interfaith Transformative Experience – The Global Peace Initiative of Women – New York, USA
The Global Peace Initiative of Women reaches out to leaders from various countries who are not yet involved in interfaith dialogue and offers them a week-long seminar, all fees paid, to discover a particular faith tradition and get involved in dialogue with other religions. The organization gets in touch with experts in different fields like yoga or meditation to lead workshops in the different seminaries. They organize those experiences in rooms with peculiar features like huge art pieces or original architectures for the participants to be marked by their experience in various ways.
6.) Interfaith Discussion Circle between Parents – The Interfaith Families Project– Rockville, Maryland, USA
The Interfaith Families Project reunites Christian and Jewish parents for an interfaith discussion circle every week. They discuss the way they manage the interfaith component of their family life. They are free to ask and speak about the way they celebrate important religious ceremonies such as Rosh Hashanah or Christmas. Monitored by both a rabbi and a priest, these discussions also bring to light the commonalities that exist within both traditions to enable a successful coexistence.
7.) Interfaith Skype Sessions in Classes – The Global Classroom project of PeaceTech – Philippines
The Global Classroom project of PeaceTech is a bridging of high school classes in social studies. The project takes places in partnership with the Philippine Ministry of Education. It connects school classes from Manila and Mindanao, the former being predominantly Christian and the latter Muslim. Through this, it improves next to the learning component also the understanding between the different regions and religions of the Philippines. The activity necessitates cameras on both sides of the exchange and good internet connections. Teachers receive training on this new way of teaching. Several times a week, teachers of two different classes organize lessons to be shared with the group of the other religion. For instance, during a class on values, each group shared its own perspective, reading together a text projected on the screen. Moreover, they have pedagogical games played together online.