woensdag, maart 30, 2016

In this times of turmoil, religious beliefs are often held accountable for disagreement, tension and conflict. However, religion, despite being portrayed as the source of divisions, can also serve as a tool for creating connections. On the 15th of March the Society for International Development (SID) organized a debate to explore the ways and conditions under which religious beliefs foster mutual understanding. Willem Jansen (Initiatives of Change), Mahardhika Sadjad (Institute for Social Studies) and Ilyaas Sherally (MashriQ) shared their personal experiences to trigger discussion and open up avenues for new insights on religion as dialogue. Below you can read a summary of the debate written by Marijn Clevers..

Diapraxis: action!

'85% of the World population is religious, if 85% of the world would be violent it is better to buy a one-way ticket to the Moon'

Willem JansenJansen kicked off the discussion by emphasizing that religion is a human construct, religious beliefs appear in a wide spectrum of shades and features. Jansen referred to his personal experiences with diapraxis, dialogue through action, in Pakistan and Kenya. Poetry and music bridged religious divides in Pakistan. In Kenya, a “mapping project” created mutual understanding: interreligious pairs map a particular area and got to understand the personal story of the other. Lastly, Jansen mentioned the movie “The Imam and the Pastor” Initiatives of Change made. The movie tells the story of an Imam and a Pastor who cooperated to resolve the ethnic religious crisis in Nigeria.

The personal narrative

Mahardhika Sadjad 'Ever since I was a child I never could draw straight lines, now as an adult I refuse to sit comfortably on one''

Religion as a dialogue for Sadjad is the dialogue within oneself, the dialogue between oneself and God and the dialogue between oneself and the social environment. However, at any point the dialogue should start from a personal narrative. The individual experience is what creates mutual understanding, as she has noticed on several occasions.

The Notion of the Other

Ilyaas Sherally

'There can be no I, without a relation to and a concept of an other 

Sherally shared a personal story of a journey to Hebron where he found himself engaged in a dialogue with Jewish youngsters, after he missed his morning prayers as a consequence of the high degree of checkpoints. The inter-religious projects that were initiated from this meeting were an opportunity for Sherally to connect with “the other”. Sherally also reflected the value of the concept of the other, since we are all “others” to each other. However, the other is also a tool to define yourself.

The struggle with the 'outside' 

The discussion evolved around the 2 faces of religion: the inside, the internal journey oneself makes, and the outside, the external acknowledgement of beliefs in the public discourse. The cultural and social framework in which religion is practiced is crucial in this perspective. The personal narrative of the majority can become overshadowed by extremists. Should the Human Rights Declaration which entails freedom of worship be rethought in order to prevent violent oppression based on religious interpretation of the holy books? Not so in the opinion of the speakers. Context and the personal story should be on the forefront and the extremists radical-groups who preach hatred should not be allowed to determine the perception of the "silent majority". Perceived threats to the external recognition of one's belief system should not determine the dialogue.

Society for International Development (SID)

SID Netherlands is a platform where people can meet and share their commitment to successful international cooperation and development. Civil society, NGOs, students, academics, private partners, government officials, politicians, media and interested citizens are all welcome to join the discussion and shape our global future. For more information please go to the website of SID Netherlands.