First KAICIID Conference in Vienna on "Image of the Other"

23 May 2013

Following the successful start of KAICIID’s Multireligious Collaboration for the Common Good (MCC) programme in Uganda in March 2013, the KAICIID Dialogue Centre has now launched its second major programme, Image of the Other in Interreligious and Intercultural Education.

On 22 May the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) hosted over 130 field leaders and experts along with major institutions such as UNESCO, ISESCO, the Anna Lindh Foundation and EUROCLIO (The European Association of History Educators, an advising partner in the workshop’s organisation). The meeting shared best practices in interreligious and intercultural education and included roundtable discussions and a panel presentation, “Image of the Other – as Practised in the Europe-Mediterranean Region”.

The Image of the Other in Interreligious and Intercultural Education programme has an educational focus in 2013, and aims to:

  • Identify and communicate best practices of intercultural education in world regions, and to share them in other regions; increase understanding of the types of approaches within and across different national contexts, including current and past interventions, achievements, lessons learned, strategies used, actors involved;
  • Increase the international exchange of ideas, methods, language and technical assistance where desired; analyse current research and practice, avoiding duplication;
  • Better connect researchers, practitioners, educators and policymakers; begin cultivating a cross-border community of individuals that are actively engaged with intercultural and interreligious education;
  • Support existing recommendations; aggregate new recommendations from field experts in each region, and sharing them at global and policy levels;
  • Expand the use of culturally sensitive and local models of intercultural education; identify field strengths and opportunities to enhance interreligious and intercultural education in a variety of contexts in the Euro-Med region and beyond.

The Europe-Mediterranean conference in Vienna is the first in a series of experts workshops to be held in different regions (Americas, Africa and Asia) using dialogue to share best practices. Recommendations from each of the regional meetings will be distributed to the other regions and converge in a Global Conference in November 2013, bringing together educators, religious leaders and policymakers.

KAICIID Secretary General Faisal Bin Muaammar addressed the event and met with representatives in the field of intercultural and interreligious education from research institutions, intergovernmental bodies, educational establishments, religious organisations, civil society, along with policymakers and ambassadors from Austria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Spain.

Participants in the morning session felt that the meeting met a need for sharing best practices and reflection on the challenges they face. It also offered a unique forum for brainstorming and exchanging experiences, together with criteria and frameworks for evaluation.

In later sessions, KAICIID representatives, including the Secretary General, members of the Board of Directors, the KAICIID management team and participating experts discussed the different dimensions of education regarding the Image of the Other in the region.

One panel included specialists Joke van der Leeuw-Roord (Founding President and Executive Director of EUROCLIO), Mahmoud Azab (Interfaith Dialogue Director at Al-Azhar University, Cairo), Wolfram Reiss (Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Vienna), Fadi Daou (President of Lebanon’s Adyan Foundation) and Andreu Claret (Executive Director of the Anna Lindh Foundation, Alexandria, Egypt). They exchanged perspectives on successful educational methods. The assembly then split into ten breakout round tables, documented by conference rapporteurs.

Each group presented key findings on how to advance the field of intercultural and interreligious education and dialogue. These included:

  • The need to integrate methods into a coherent and structured educational programme.
  • The recognition that there has been real improvement in the quality of curricular programmes that address the Image of the Other across the Europe-Mediterranean Region.
  • The need to go beyond recommendations; it is time to enhance implementation and action with demonstrable impact.
  • Concern that interreligious dialogue takes into account the complexities of individual identity.
  • Awareness that the state can be an essential actor enabling citizens to participate fully and equally in society without discrimination.
  • Emphasis that there is no single solution; solutions always depend on context.
  • The need for “multitrack” integrated approaches that include all levels of education, from parents to communities and religious institutions, as well as civil society and government.

Participants expressed enthusiasm for KAICIID, which they felt offered a unique convening of experts and faith communities, facilitating the exchange of information and research demonstrating real world impact.

KAICIID’s Secretary General said, “Dialogue plays an essential role in the creation of educational material, as well as in the learning process. We learn about others when we engage each other in dialogue. We are delighted to be both supporting and learning from advances in this exciting field.”