December 4th, 2023, marked a significant milestone in the journey towards global peace and interreligious understanding as the latest cohorts of the International Dialogue Centre's KAICIID Fellows Programme graduated in a jubilant ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal. This diverse group of individuals, hailing from 37 countries around the world and drawn from various religious and cultural backgrounds, completed an intensive year-long training, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to fostering peace and dialogue in their communities.
Diverse Cohorts, Unified Vision
The programme uniquely brought together leaders and educators from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and other religious backgrounds. This year's cohorts, too, were a testament to this diversity, representing an array of cultures and faiths yet united in their quest for peace. In total, the 2023 cohorts had 69 Fellows, with a commendable gender balance of 27 females and 42 males representing six religions. For the first time, the KAICIID Fellows Programme had a Samaritan Fellow, increasing the number of religions represented in the Alumni Network to 12. Hailing from 37 countries, the Fellows brought a rich tapestry of cultures, perspectives, and traditions to our global community. The training, led by KAICIID experts, has honed their skills in dialogue facilitation, intercultural communication, and promoting social cohesion.
Dr. Amal Emam a humanitarian and development specialist in the MENA region, shared a profound insight gained from the KAICIID Fellows programme: the ancient adage "Talk so I can see you" falls short in the realm of peacebuilding. She argued that true understanding and acquaintance for peacebuilding only emerge through dialogue. Amal emphasized that every leader strives to make an impact, and KAICIID excels in uniting leaders from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds to forge a collective impact centered on peace through dialogue. She admires KAICIID's tireless efforts in facilitating sustainable relationships among diverse groups, mastering dialogue as a tool for peacebuilding and community engagement.
The Multifaceted Training Approach
KAICIID Fellows Programme: Timeline
The Fellows underwent a rigorous curriculum, ranging from orientation and capacity building to final evaluation and sustainability training. The programme's design is meticulous, involving three intensive residential training courses focusing on interreligious dialogue (IRD), theory, dialogue facilitation, and project sustainability sessions supplemented by online courses that focus on coexistence and pluralism. These courses equipped the Fellows with dialogue facilitation and intercultural communication skills and taught them how to promote social cohesion. These stages were crucial in helping the Fellows develop a holistic understanding of the dynamics of interreligious dialogue
The KAICIID Fellows Programme is intended to make an impact in four areas: First, by mainstreaming IRD in Fellows’ affiliated religious and educational institutions and communities. Secondly, by helping to better equip educators at institutions with the knowledge and skills necessary for teaching IRD. Thirdly, by building up more educators who will advocate for dialogue, are committed to the Centre’s mission, and will act as ambassadors for dialogue, especially in the conflict zones with KAICIID focus. Lastly, in addition to religious diversity, the programme seeks to balance the regions, genders and ages represented in the full understanding that only an inclusive approach will allow the programme to achieve the impact of restoring or enhancing social harmony.
Rabbi Ezequiel David Antebi Sacca; a Rabbinical student at the Bet Midrash lerabanim, hailing from Argentina, reflects on his transformative experience with the KAICIID programme. He portrays it as an intense, multifaceted journey - at times challenging, amusing, and exhausting. The programme brought together a vibrant tapestry of individuals from diverse religious, ethnic, and national backgrounds. This melting pot of perspectives led to the breaking down of prejudices and fostered honest discussions about our differences. Eziquel underscores the excitement of finding common ground in shared ideas, struggles, and challenges among such a varied group.
A significant aspect of the programme is the practical application of learned skills. Fellows are encouraged to implement interreligious dialogue initiatives tailored to their communities' needs. These have included interfaith youth projects, hate speech awareness campaigns, and initiatives empowering women in global policymaking. The impact of these initiatives is a testament to the programme's efficacy in fostering real change. KAICIID funded 64 initiatives, implemented in 39 countries, directly impacting 21,887 people, with an average age of 28 years in the target group.
Looking Ahead: A Future of Peace and Understanding
As we celebrate the graduation of the 2023 cohorts, it's clear that the KAICIID Fellows Programme is more than just a training platform; it's a movement. A movement that's gradually building a world where dialogue triumphs over discord and understanding overcomes division. The journey of these Fellows, armed with knowledge, skills, and a passion for peace, is just beginning. Their future endeavors will undoubtedly contribute to a more harmonious and understanding world.
The Power of the Alumni Network
Graduation is not the end but a new beginning for these Fellows. They have joined the KAICIID Fellows Alumni Network (KFIN), a vibrant community of global changemakers. The KAICIID Fellows Institutional Network is committed to embedding and expanding IRD skills at an institutional level globally and aims to promote a culture of peace and inclusiveness across all communities. Fellows’ affiliated institutions can also join a collaborative network of religious educational institutions and formation structures globally. KFIN provides a platform for cooperation, the exchange of knowledge and best practices, as well as opportunities for joint projects and research in the field of IRD. This network plays a pivotal role in expanding the impact of their initiatives, offering opportunities for sharing best practices, securing funding, and fostering continuous learning.
Eugenia ‘Jenny’ Maria Peres Canau, a Tibetan Buddhist representative and a member of the Advisory Council of the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative (CTII) South Africa, lauds the KAICIID Fellows Programme for its profound impact on participants, emphasizing its foundation in globally recognized best practices in interreligious and intercultural dialogue (IRD/ICD). She describes the programme as a beacon of compassionate wisdom, deeply resonating with all who partake in its offerings.
In a time where division seems more prevalent than unity, the KAICIID Fellows Programme stands as a beacon of hope, proving that dialogue, understanding, and mutual respect can indeed pave the way for a more peaceful world.