Emmanuel: New PeaceMap Shows Interreligious Dialogue Is “Much More Than Talk”

At an IPI meeting on September 21st, the International Day of Peace, the KAICIID Dialogue Centre unveiled a new PeaceMap, designed to give visibility to the many organizations working on interreligious dialogue worldwide, and help to encourage collaboration among these organizations. The map was made in collaboration with IPI.

Metropolitan Emmanual, a member of the KAICIID Board, highlighted how the PeaceMap can contribute to the achievement of sustainable peace by making visible the vast scale and diversity of interreligious networks. The collaborative work of the intergovernmental, national, religious, and civil society organizations the PeaceMap describes shows “that such dialogue is much more than talk, it means action,” he said.

The event’s moderator, Mohammed Abu-Nimer, a Senior Advisor at KAICIID, acknowledged that while the PeaceMap included over 400 organizations doing “good work in conflict areas”, much of that work remains siloed.

He emphasized the PeaceMap’s potential to spur the development of interreligious dialogue as a tool of peacebuilding, by shining a light on the work of diverse groups in the field. “Many organizations tend to be underfunded and marginalized,” he said. “We hope by mapping their capacity, and challenges they face, we add to the possibility of capacity building.”

KAICIID Director of Research Patrice Brodeur, thanked Coexister, an interreligious movement of young people, and the Harvard Pluralism Project for their support of the PeaceMap, which, he said, is the culmination of two years of work. The PeaceMap can be viewed on its interactive website, and all of its findings are available for free download.

The PeaceMap shows lines connecting each organization’s headquarters to its regional and field offices. Seeing the many lines criss-cross the globe is a powerful image of how truly global the reach is of the 6,000 documented activities these organizations carry out worldwide.

A very different picture would have emerged if the locations of the headquarters had been listed without this visual or context, as two-thirds of the organizations are headquartered in the global north. This is part of the importance of the PeaceMap, Mr. Brodeur said, while demonstrating the tool’s interactive elements highlighting field work, including personal testimony in video interviews.

Another element of the PeaceMap is multi-colored displays representing activities the organizations are engaged in. Mr. Brodeur said, “Most of the organizations are associated with some kind of concrete action,” making a distinction between the mere talk that is “popularly associated with interreligious dialogue,” and the activities the PeaceMap highlights.

For now, the methodology of the PeaceMap is limited to organizations with a website, and who indicate their work is related to interreligious dialogue. Only 29% of these organizations declared formally that they are either religious, or religiously affiliated, much to the surprise of the researchers and the expert panel.

To explain this finding, Mr. Brodeur said there is already a huge amount of governmental and civil society recognition of the value of interreligious dialogue, and that 80% of the activities profiled are peacebuilding activities, broadly defined.

“If you think about all of this information, it shows how much we need to continue to better integrate religious and faith-based organizations with government and civil society at all levels,” he said. Peace-promoting organizations, in all their diversity, he said, were essential to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Azza Karam, a Senior Advisor at the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), brought an intergovernmental perspective to the panel. She said she was “thrilled” to see empowerment and women’s rights included in the PeaceMap.

Ms. Karam went on to say it was service providers who underpin sustainable peace. “In some communities, it is the religious community, and faith-based initiatives, that deliver a growing percentage, sometimes most, of the vital community services, such as education and healthcare,” she said.

Co-Chair of the Interfaith Center of New York and a Trustee of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Kusumita Pedersen, talked about the advocacy role the interfaith community is playing in combatting climate change. She praised the PeaceMap for connecting interfaith groups for such purposes, stating, “You need mobilization on a vast scale, and you can’t mobilize unless you know who you’re mobilizing.”

Ms. Karam recounted an experience working with interreligious dialogue from the UNFPA national office in Kenya. By bringing groups from different religious communities together to discuss maternal health, they realized, despite philosophical differences, they “could make a common case,” for women’s health.

Ms. Karam said, “It’s important to focus on those kind of activities, and not simply look at the lofty idealism of those who are mediators and peacemakers; look at those who are providing food, nutrition, health, sanitation.”

Mohammed Abu-Nimer, a Senior Advisor at KAICIID, and a Professor at the School of International Service, American University, moderated the conversation.

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Related Coverage
KAICIID Peace Map Links Interreligious Dialogue and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (PR Newswire, September 21, 2015)