Violent conflict is a threat to the Arab region’s social and cultural fabric. Often, systemic economic, political and cultural problems have been expressed along religious lines, pitting religious communities against each other. With the emergence of terror groups after the invasion of Iraq - chief among them so-called Islamic State, KAICIID convened religious leaders from diverse faith backgrounds to advocate for dialogue and peace. In 2014, these religious leaders came together under KAICIID’s initiative ‘United against Violence in the Name of Religion’ whereby they worked together over the next years to remove religious affiliation as an excuse for violence and exclusion. In 2018 these religious leaders established the first official interreligious platform in the Arab world – the Interreligious Platform for Dialogue and Cooperation in the Arab World (IPDC). Through this collaborative platform, they have sought to preserve peaceful relations within and between communities in the region, based on the principle that violence against one religion is violence against all religions.
The Interreligious Platform for Dialogue and Cooperation in the Arab World (IPDC) was established in 2018 by KAICIID in cooperation with 23 religious leaders to serve as a permanent link between religious leaders and their communities in the region, through which they collaborate on initiatives aimed at promoting dialogue, preventing conflict, and resolving existing challenges.
Although the IPDC was established as a regional platform, several offshoot networks have emerged and are working on local and national relief efforts, such as those aimed at tackling the impact of the Sudan floods, the recent Beirut blast, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Platform and the KAICIID secretariat work together on the implementation of various projects.
Social media is more than a simple communication tool. It allows also for an exchange of ideas across the global digital landscape and can transform groups and individuals into influencers, publishers and activists on a scale never known. Since 2015, the “Social Media as a Space for Dialogue programme” has equipped more than 700 young leaders in the Arab Region with skills to combat online hate speech and extremism, while advocating for inclusion and moderation. It started as a grassroots initiative aimed at training religious leaders, representatives from religious institutions, and youth in advocacy and dialogical messaging in the online space.
Social Media as a Space for Dialogue is an evolving and adaptive training series that so far has included 12 workshops, including five advanced “training of trainers” sessions, equipping hundreds of young leaders in the Arab region with skills to combat online hate speech and extremism, while advocating inclusion, moderation, and community support networks. The graduates of this programme have launched and successfully operated 20 social media campaigns promoting diversity, cooperation for sustainable development, and mobilising local efforts for crisis response to such challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021, the “Social Media as a Space for Dialogue programme” is transitioning, from grassroots to a policy and institutional level. A new version, entitled “The Power of Social Media”, is being developed based on a needs assessment conducted in 2021, and includes an advanced training agenda covering a wider range of topics related to dialogue, communication and policy making, supported in part with webinars, competitions and support grants for interreligious dialogue community initiatives.
The Arab Region Fellows Programme is an extension of the KAICIID International Fellows Programme, tailored to the Arab region and delivered entirely in Arabic. It attracts candidates from some of the region’s leading religious, academic, and civil institutions. Currently, 130 Fellows from ten countries across the region have graduated from the programme and have implemented 56 initiatives in their communities to raise awareness of dialogue as a means of countering hate speech, and promoting common citizenship.
KAICIID views youth as essential partners in the Arab region’s quest for peaceful coexistence and supports a Youth for Dialogue network for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in the Arab Region. The network has instrumentalised a Forum space serving as an active, influential window that enables youth to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue, confront hate speech, and create strong youth communities that reinforce the values of citizenship in the Arab region. The network builds towards more cohesive communities by contributing to the achievement of the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs).
The Youth for Dialogue Project was established in December 2019 to identify strategic priorities for youth in interreligious dialogue. So far, the Forum has established a steering committee, produced a strategic plan for its operations, increased youth participation in regional conferences, encouraged systematic youth engagement through a series of virtual dialogue sessions that are entirely coordinated and implemented by young people and key actors in the region. Members of the Youth for Dialogue network have also led various online and offline campaigns addressing the current pandemic, calling for inclusive ways to mitigate its effects.
Launched in 2020, the Dialogue-360 Project is aimed at strengthening local dialogue initiatives as foundations for peacebuilding efforts in the region.
The scheme aims to:
- Counter and prevent hate speech in the name of religion
- Enhance the role of interreligious and intercultural dialogue in creating social cohesion, common citizenship, and interreligious education
- Promote the protection of cultural heritage and safeguarding of religious sitesIn 2020, KAICIID and the IPDC supported the implementation of initiatives in 15 countries in the Arab region, including 183 training and dialogue sessions, 24 awareness and advocacy campaigns, one mobile application, a set of four educational games, as well as the founding of 10 peace clubs. Collectively, the initiatives have benefited 5500 people directly, and reached 5.3 million through radio broadcasting, videos and social media.
She for Dialogue engages women from the Arab region in a one year training programme where participants can learn and apply interreligious dialogue skills, in the process improving social cohesion and promoting common citizenship as well as countering hate speech. Participants also study the use of social media as a vehicle for peaceful coexistence, and tackle topics such as gender bias and stereotypes in the field of interreligious and intercultural dialogue. Participants also examine ways in which identity intersects with religion, ethnicity, culture, and nationality.
The project methodology is two-fold: First, it provides training aimed at raising awareness through workshops and capacity building activities, and second, it helps establish community-based, female-led initiatives to promote dialogue and common citizenship. Initiatives range from art shows, to theatre performances, sports, as well as interactive and other dialogue activities. The first phase of the project included members from five countries: Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon. The subsequent phases will expand to other countries in the region based on the emerging needs and context.
A year-long fellowship programme to train journalists in interreligious dialogue awareness while reinforcing the core values of journalism which promote accuracy, fairness, balance, as well as respect for diversity, ethnicity, and religion. Participants are drawn from diverse communities across the Arab region and are offered mentorship, tuition, and funding to implement guided dialogue initiatives in their field. They receive training in the practice of so-called ‘dialogue journalism’ which is a fairly new concept that strives to promote civil discourse by putting communities at the heart of the news agenda. The programme bolsters journalists’ ability to fairly and sensitively report on issues of faith, identity, and conflict and hopefully to serve the cause of peacebuilding at the policymaking level.
In 2021, this project is being implemented in partnership with Media in Cooperation and Transition (MiCT)
Established in 2017, the network is made up of deans, professors and heads of religious studies departments in universities and higher education institutions who work to find ways in which the treatments of theologies and religious studies in Christian and Muslim faculties can become avenues for exposing students to interfaith dialogue and diversity. The idea is to provide opportunities for reciprocal learning for Christians and Muslims about each other’s faiths.