KAICIID Fellows Present Projects to Promote Interreligious Dialogue and Peace in 25 Countries

03 Nov 2017
Fellows Group Photo International and Arab cohorts at KAICIID, Vienna, 2 November 2017. Photo: KAICIID

2 November, VIENNA: 44 religious educators from the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim faiths showcased projects they completed during a training with the International Fellows Programme, a one-year training initiative instituted in 2015 by the Vienna-based International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID).

Over the past year, the Fellows have been implementing projects and training students under the supervision of KAICIID’s experts, many in countries such as the Central African Republic, Iraq, Myanmar, Nigeria, and Somalia, where ongoing conflict or violence have impeded progress in interreligious dialogue, cooperation and reconciliation.

At the graduation ceremony, held on Thursday at the Centre’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria, KAICIID Director General Fahad Abualnasr described the vision behind the Fellows programme:

“Our aim when we started the Fellows programme was to connect religious educators with each other, and to empower them to build bridges of dialogue, first within their own communities, but also with other communities. There were very few opportunities for religious educators to meet and learn from their peers from other religions or other countries. This was the gap we were hoping to fill.”

The KAICIID Fellows Programme provides transformational support, networking and training to an international community of peacebuilders to create positive change in their institutions and communities.

Application to the Fellows programme is open to all people, irrespective of nationality and religion. Fellows are selected through a multi-level competitive process.

The Fellows programme is designed to provide institutionalized dialogue opportunities and networks, so that interreligious dialogue can become a common feature of any religious training.

In addition to training in dialogue, mediation, and peacebuilding, the Fellows also implement projects in their own communities to promote dialogue among followers of different religions. To this end, they receive funding and mentoring from KAICIID. Over 100 projects have so far been implemented across the world.

To date, 112 Fellows have graduated from the programme. Starting in 2016, KAICIID has also started regional Fellows programmes, beginning with a South-East Asia Fellows programme in 2016, and an Arab-region Fellows programme in 2017.

The training programme may have concluded on Thursday with a graduation, but the Fellows Network is designed to continue long after the graduation, through an online platform and funding for projects and conference attendance by past Fellows.

At the graduation ceremony, the Director General encouraged the Fellows to continue their work in promoting interreligious dialogue,

“Each of you, KAICIID Fellows, is a champion of dialogue, and an ambassador for peace and interreligious coexistence.”

The graduation ceremony was followed by a reception where the Fellows had the opportunity to interact with members of the diplomatic community in Vienna, and representatives of the local religious communities. The ambassadors of  Iraq, Myanmar, Palestine, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia to Austria, and representatives of the embassies of Algeria, Bangladesh, Canada, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia and the United States were in attendance, as well as representatives of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the League of Arab States, and representatives of the Muslim, Jewish, Catholic and Orthodox religious communities in Vienna. KAICIID’s host country was represented through the presence of a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Austria.