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23 May 2013

Following the successful start of KAICIID’s “Multi-religious Collaboration for the Survival and Wellbeing of Children” (MCC) programme in Uganda in March 2013, the Centre launched its second major programme, “The Image of the Other”.

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, as 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 “The Image of the Other – as Practised in the Europe-Mediterranean Region”.

“The Image of the Other” programme had an educational focus in 2013, and aimed to:

  • Identify and communicate best practices of intercultural education in world regions, making them known 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, sharing 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 was the first in a series of experts’ workshops to be held in different regions (Americas, Africa, Asia) using dialogue to share best practices. Recommendations from each of the regional meetings were disseminated in the other regions and converged in a Global Conference in November 2013, bringing together educators, religious leaders and policy makers.

KAICIID Secretary General Faisal Bin Abdulrahman 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, policy makers and ambassadors from Spain, Austria, Saudi-Arabia and Egypt.

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 Dr. Joke van der Leeuw-Roord (Founding President and Executive Director of EUROCLIO), Dr. Mahmoud Azab (Interfaith Dialogue Director at Al-Azhar-University, Cairo), Prof. Dr. Wolfram Reiss (Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Vienna), Dr. Fadi Daou (President of Lebanon’s Adyan Foundation) and Dr. 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 roundtables, 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 education 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 ‘multi-track’ integrated approaches that include all levels of education, from parents to communities and religious institutions, as well as civil society and government.