The Dialogue Institute hosted, and co-sponsored in partnership with the KAICIID Dialogue Centre in Vienna, a three-day international conference at Temple University, December 5-7, 2017, for religious leaders and scholars from Argentina, Austria, Canada, England and the United States on “Building Peace in the Urban Community.”
The conference—which included KAICIID Fellows, a select group of religious educators and actors engaged in interreligious dialogue throughout the world—highlighted the roles that religious communities, through dialogue and cooperation with policy makers, can play in addressing social challenges in urban centers. The conference explored specifically how religious leaders and policy makers are working (and can work) together to make cities safe and hospitable spaces for all its residents. Participants identified best practices and associated skills/tools for successful coordination and dialogue between religious communities and policy makers at all levels.
"Among other things, (the conference) introduced me to a number of well-established and highly credible organizations in the United States working on interfaith development," said participant Jeff Berger, a KAICIID Fellow and rabbi from England. "Most impressive was the extraordinary reach and organizational efforts of the Dialogue Institute, whose reputation in North America is exemplary. Immense gratitude goes to Rebecca Mays, Jessica Sitek and the DI leadership for their warm welcome, and for introducing us to a host of innovative professionals who are making a real impact on urban peace building."
The City of Philadelphia and programs therein served as the primary case study for participants as they develop research and other projects in their home communities. They met with City Councilman David Oh, and representatives from the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, Mural Arts Philadelphia, Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild (POWER), Mother Bethel AME Church, Al-Aqsa Mosque, ArtWell, Philadelphia Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation, and Theater of Witness, Global Peace Foundation and The Police Chaplain Program.
"Gathering together to explore what collaborations are happening in Philadelphia to make urban spaces safe, dialogic and generative was an invaluable way for the group to reflect on their own work and their own contexts," said Jessica Sitek, a DI graduate intern and co-organizer of the conference (Jessica is also a KAICIID Fellow). "We all look forward to keeping the conversation going, and have already planned a follow-on virtual meeting with that in mind."
KAICIID, founded in 2012, is an international, intergovernmental, multi-religious organization whose mandate is to promote the use of dialogue globally to prevent and resolve conflict to enhance understanding and cooperation. Over a seven-year-long negotiation and development process, KAICIID’s mandate and structure were designed to foster dialogue among people of different faiths and cultures that bridges animosities, reduces fear and instills mutual respect.