World Refugee Day 2019 at KAICIID - An evening of dialogue

20 June 2019

In light of World Refugee Day 2019, KAICIID organized an evening event of diverse dialogical encounters on 19 June. In a time of riveting rhetoric and social cleavage, World Refugee Day provides an important opportunity to dialogue, to learn more about each other and to realize that despite all our differences, we share the same desires, needs and dreams. 

Against this background, around 60 participants, including refugees, representatives of civil society organizations, members of NGOs that work in the field of integration, and unaffiliated people with a general interest in the topic, came together at KAICIID in Vienna. An exciting evening full of new insights was awaiting them.

Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, delivered the opening remarks. "Europe must not become a fortress", he demanded. Directly addressing the refugees in the room he stated: "Europe is not just our continent, or the continent of the Europeans. It is also yours". In his speech, Metropolitan Emmanuel also shared touching first-hand experiences that he made with refugees in Greece and highlighted the importance of KAICIIDs interreligious dialogue work.

Suad Mohamed, a refugee from Somalia, shared her very personal story with the participants of the event. She fled from Somalia and first came to Saudi Arabia, from where she continued to Pakistan, Syria and finally to Austria. Despite initial difficulties to settle in and integrate, she soon found strength in her work with the Austrian Deaconry and the Austrian Red Cross, where she was given the chance to take care of other migrants and refugees. Today, Suad is a a trained pharmacist and speaks a total of six languages fluently. In her speech, she spread words of hope and encouraged the refugees to get in touch with Austrians, emphasizing how beneficial this is for their integration process. 

Edith Erhart from Austria made her experience with migration from an entirely different perspective. As a German language trainer at "Hilfswerk", an Austrian NGO, she met a family from Syria. Over time, their relationship turned into a deep and long-lasting friendship, despite all communication-related obstacles that existed when they first met. The event then provided participants with the chance to dialogue with each other in a "World CafĂ©" format, where they were able to get to know each other in smaller groups of people. "What would help me to get in touch with other people more easily?" was one of the questions that was vividly discussed during this session.

Mischa Altman, who led the participants through the evening, then asked a rhetorical question: "What does dialogue mean?". Responding to his own question, he stated: "Dialogue means to listen to each other with both the brain and the heart. Dialogue does not mean to convince others of your own beliefs, but to create something new". The feedback of the participants was along these lines: "Such experiences help us understand that we are all human beings, regardless of where we come from or how we look like. We want to learn to speak with other people without resorting to stereotypes", one participant stated. World Refugee Day at KAICIID turned into an exciting opportunity to get in touch with one another. More opportunities of this kind shall come.