Dialogue Training for Future Religious Peacemakers: KAICIID Fellows Programme Begins Second Year

30 Nov 2015

Twenty religious educators and scholars from around the world have been accepted into the second KAICIID Fellows Programme, a year-long programme of training in conflict resolution, and social cohesion, the Vienna-based intergovernmental organization announced today.

Almost half of them come from countries which are currently undergoing periods of violent conflict with religion as a factor, such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Nigeria and Iraq.

The training programme aims to equip educators from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim training institutions with the skills to train a new generation of religious leaders in conflict prevention, interreligious dialogue and social cohesion, so that they, in turn, can be active peacemakers in their communities.

“Religious leaders are immensely influential in their local communities: through their words, actions, and spiritual guidance, they can, and do, hold communities together in the face of threats like radicalization and extremism. The KAICIID Fellows programme is designed to help them in this task, through concrete, institutional, skill-based training programmes.”

The Fellows programme also connects institutions that train future religious leaders, thus building an active global community of leaders in dialogue who share the vision of integrating dialogue in religious education.

The Fellows undertake three one-week trainings with KAICIID moderators and facilitators, and also receive ongoing support throughout the year in their work, including micro-financing for community projects in dialogue.

KAICIID Secretary General, Faisal Bin Muaammar said: “Even though the Fellows Programme has only been in existence for a year, our trainees have already delivered very positive results.

We are amazed and motivated by the positive changes that can result from bringing people from different religious traditions together in dialogue, and we are confident that leaders in religious communities, and through them, the larger public from all these countries will benefit directly as a result.”

Success Stories

The 2015 KAICIID Fellow from Myanmar, Reverend Mandalar, is organising dialogue trainings for young people in his country, where they can meet people of different religions, and promote a model of living together peacefully.

Two of the Fellows, Janani Carpenter, a Hindu and teacher at Arsha Vijnana Gurukulam in Oregon, USA and Nourah Alhasawi, Head of the Islamic Studies Department at the Princess Noura Bent Abdurrahman University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, initially found that the differences in their religious traditions were hard to overcome. But they are now working together on a book, a dual narrative on their personal thoughts and experiences while dialoguing over thorny topics such as religious tradition and clothing, and faith and violence in the name of religion.

They also met with each other’s students for a frank dialogue about faith.

Nourah Alhasawi, Head of the Islamic Studies Department at the Princess Noura Bent Abdurrahman University in Riyadh, said: “Some people came with curiosity, you can see in their eyes that they are maybe coming with their own background and stereotypes but you can also see it through their eyes when it has changed – and in their smiles.”

Sister Agatha Ogochukwu, Co-Chair of Woman of Faith Peacebuilding Network Nigeria, and 2015 KAICIID Fellow is training women and young people in dialogue in her country, Nigeria, which has seen increasing violence by terrorist organisation Boko Haram.

Of her experience with the KAICIID Fellows programme, she said: “I got the idea to train women and youth to become experts in IRD from my fellowship with KAICIID. This Fellows Programme opened my eyes to the real meaning of IRD and the need to train others because if people truly understand what IRD is all about, then it would help to solve a lot of social problems in the country.”

The first training in Vienna next week will bring together last year’s “graduates” with the new Fellows, so that they can share their experiences of the training. All graduates join the KAICIID Fellows Network, where they receive ongoing support with the work in interreligious dialogue.