Arab-Danish interfaith dialogue: Risks and paradoxes

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Organised interfaith dialogue between Arab and Danish religious leaders, activists and grassroots went through a revival as part of Danish development and foreign politics with the launch of the programme ’The Arab Initiative’ in 2003, now ’The Danish-Arab Partnership Programme’. Thus, the programme has supported collaboration on interfaith dialogue between organisations like Danmission, the largest Danish mission association, and local Arab NGOs like ‘Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services’ (CEOSS) in Egypt and ‘Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue’ (FDCD) in Lebanon. Based on participant-observation of some of these activities and interviews with organisers and participants, I will present an analysis of three paradoxes that appear in the interfaith work and that connect to the need of managing the risks embedded in the interfaith dialogue. Firstly, the Arab and Danish participants do not seem to agree on how to address the topic of religion, as Arab participants often reject to discuss religious questions. Secondly, although subscribing to interfaith dialogue as means to counter injustice, prejudices, conflicts, and power inequalities, power inequalities within the setting of the interfaith dialogue are almost never addressed. Thirdly, while religious leaders are asked to appear as role models of interfaith dialogue, grassroots activities to a certain extend encourage participants to disregard the sayings of religious authorities. All three paradoxes may be seen as ways of avoiding risks, since discussions on religion, power inequalities and authorities of religion may reveal unbridgeable gaps and conflicts. However, to create the wanted transformation leading to a higher degree of peaceful co-existence facing risks may be necessary to move participants in new directions (Ward 2013; Wilson 2017). In the paper, I furthermore argue that these paradoxes reflect the different contexts of Denmark and the Arab countries and the relationship between the two. I draw on studies of interfaith work in the Arab world (Abu-Nimer, Khoury, Welty 2007; Hansen 2015) and studies of organised cultural encounters (Bull, Galal and Hvenegaard-Lassen 2017).
Publikationsdato20 jul. 2018
StatusUdgivet - 20 jul. 2018
BegivenhedWOCMES - World Congress of Middle Eastern Studies - University of Seville, Seville, Spanien
Varighed: 16 jul. 201820 jul. 2018


KonferenceWOCMES - World Congress of Middle Eastern Studies
LokationUniversity of Seville

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