"To be religious today means to be interreligious as well"

Syafaatun Almirzanah, Muslim professor from Indonesia. (Photo: Miriam Glass)

"Peace Grows with Us" is the name of Mission 21's current campaign, one focus of which is interreligious cooperation. Bringing people of different religions together is an important step on the way to greater stability and peace. 

Critical questions welcome

At a conference entitled "Reconciliation: Valuing Diversity in Indonesia and Switzerland," experts from the field of interreligious cooperation shared their knowledge. For example, Syafaatun Almirzanah, Muslim theologian and professor of religious studies at the "State Islamic University" in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The meeting was organized in cooperation with Eukumindo, the European Working Group for Ecumenical Relations with Indonesia.

Until a few years ago, Indonesia was considered a model of a pluralistic state, Almirzanah said. But for some years now, radical tendencies have been growing stronger. Education is the most important means of countering the problem, she said. Her mantra: "Every dogma must be able to be questioned." To counter and prevent religious fundamentalism, she said, people need to be encouraged to think critically, starting in childhood. Taking different perspectives instead of closing oneself off is more important than ever: "Nowadays, being religious also means being interreligious," Almirzanah says. She calls on her country's religious leaders to adapt their curricula accordingly.

Interreligious Dialogue in Switzerland

What and how students learn about religious topics is also an issue in Switzerland. Lars Wolf, mediator, theologian and teacher in Basel, spoke about religious education in classes with different cultural and religious backgrounds. He said it is important to discuss religious diversity at an early age. This also allows the students to experience their own identity. Sometimes it is not only the students of different religions themselves, but also their parents who are excited about reflecting, discussing and learning together.  

Peace work is concretely visible in projects worldwide

Other speakers explored additional facets of diversity. For example, Dr. Reinhild Traitler spoke about the gender perspective in intercultural education; Rev. Tabitha Walther reported on approaches to pastoral care in contexts with different religions. Visna Vulovik from Indonesia presented the work of the Indonesian Wahid Foundation in the field of interreligious cooperation.

Using interreligious cooperation for peace is a long process. The conference in Basel showed that it has begun - and it is visible in the projects for interreligious peace work around the world.

Text: Miriam Glass/Patrizia Kieliger

► On the "Peace grows with us" campaign


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