Dialogue as key to the future of Europe

A demo­c­ra­t­ic approach to a cul­tur­al and reli­gious diver­si­ty that is root­ed and has formed with­in Euro­pean and Aus­tri­an his­to­ry has become a fun­da­men­tal sociopo­lit­i­cal task. How can we react to this diver­si­ty? What is our vision of tomorrow’s soci­ety? How are we going to suc­ceed in build­ing a soci­ety that is dynam­ic, unbi­ased and with­out any dis­crim­i­na­tion, pro­mot­ing inte­gra­tion for every­one in agree­ment with their human and civ­il rights?

On the basis of Euro­pean val­ues, respect­ing and pro­mot­ing cul­tur­al and reli­gious diver­si­ty by ensur­ing a dia­logue between reli­gions and cul­tures in pub­lic life plays a cru­cial role and has become vital to  estab­lish­ing an iden­ti­ty in the 21st cen­tu­ry. Today’s soci­ety is becom­ing increas­ing­ly plu­ral­is­tic call­ing for an increase in inter­faith dia­logue and joint work­ing as well as encour­ag­ing peace­ful inter­faith coex­is­tence in order to pre­vent reli­gious­ly and cul­tur­al­ly moti­vat­ed con­flicts. Inter­faith dia­logue is there­fore a require­ment of our times. Increas­ing diver­si­ty needs a dia­logue across eth­nic, reli­gious, lin­guis­tic and nation­al bor­ders to pro­mote social cohe­sion.

Dif­fer­ent spir­i­tu­al and reli­gious tra­di­tions form val­ues that can guar­an­tee a life in dig­ni­ty for all human beings. There­fore it is cru­cial to find a new under­stand­ing of par­tic­u­lar­i­ties and plu­ral­ism. Trust and respect between reli­gions are deep­ened by con­ver­sa­tions, local, region­al and inter­cul­tur­al dis­cus­sions on reli­gion and vio­lence, per­cep­tion of “the oth­er” and a search for iden­ti­ty with­in plu­ral­is­tic soci­eties. The dia­logue with reli­gious com­mu­ni­ties and asso­ci­a­tions is pro­mot­ed by estab­lish­ing dia­logue forums, includ­ing peo­ple that very often have not yet become part of such insti­tu­tions.

Nowa­days most of the world’s coun­tries are char­ac­terised by reli­gious plu­ral­ism, mak­ing a dia­logue essen­tial on all lev­els.  Such a dia­logue can be ini­ti­at­ed in var­i­ous ways, e. g. with­in a per­son­al con­text, in a con­ver­sa­tion to get to know one anoth­er, via project dia­logue or medi­a­tion dia­logue in case of con­flicts as well as in meet­ings between school class­es and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of oth­er reli­gions and cul­tures. Since Chris­tian­i­ty is still the major­i­ty reli­gion in Aus­tria it is to say that most meet­ings do not have a struc­tur­al sym­me­try to them, i. e. rep­re­sen­ta­tives of pre­vail­ing Chris­tian­i­ty are meet­ing with minor­i­ty reli­gions, dis­cussing their issues con­cern­ing main­stream soci­ety. There­fore one of the objec­tives of the dia­logue is work­ing on a thriv­ing envi­ron­ment for every­one. Inter­cul­tur­al­ism and mul­tire­li­gios­i­ty are not mere terms but real life over­laps and encoun­ters between cul­tures and reli­gions in all their diver­si­ty. A con­struc­tive approach towards dif­fer­ent cul­tures and reli­gions is there­fore essen­tial and can be realised by cre­at­ing plat­forms where inter­faith and inter­cul­tur­al dia­logue can take place on equal terms for every par­tic­i­pant.

The Euro­pean Union has the aim to devise and exe­cute a com­pre­hen­sive inte­gra­tion pol­i­cy that is based on com­mon prin­ci­ples and an inte­gra­tive con­cept, which can only be achieved by rein­forc­ing exist­ing capac­i­ties. On a local lev­el a coher­ent, effec­tive and effi­cient inte­gra­tion pol­i­cy can be guar­an­teed by estab­lish­ing plat­forms where inte­gra­tive and dia­logue-ori­ent­ed insti­tu­tions have the pos­si­bil­i­ty to exchange infor­ma­tion and expe­ri­ences.

Graz has a long-stand­ing tra­di­tion of dif­fer­ent cul­tures and reli­gions meet­ing one anoth­er thanks to the con­tin­u­ous effort of the City pol­i­cy based on tol­er­ance and social jus­tice realised by var­i­ous insti­tu­tions: the inte­gra­tion depart­ment, the peace office, the Human Rights Coun­cil and the Inter­faith Coun­cil, coop­er­a­tion and dia­logue ini­tia­tives. The com­mit­ment of indi­vid­u­als as well as the Church­es, ecu­meni­cal groups and reli­gious com­mu­ni­ties con­tributes to a peace­ful coex­is­tence of all reli­gions and cul­tures in Graz, a city that for good rea­son has earned the proud title of “Human Rights City”.