World Cafe: The Role of Interreligious Dialogue in 2015

UPF (Universal Peace Federation) held its summer festival on 19.07.2015 in the premises of UPF in Giessen. Last year the first such festival was held under the motto ‘world family’, and this year the topic was ‘between war and peace: the role of interreligious dialogue in 2015’. The world café was an integral part of the summer festival in which young and old had the opportunity to discuss the role of religion and the challenges and possibilities offered in the quest for world peace.

The world café was moderated by Jonathan M. and Benedikta B. (Youth UPF). To start off, Ali C., who is one of the founders and currently leader of the Giessen University UNICEF group, as well as being one of about 50 youth ambassadors from the campaign organization ONE, was recognized as a UPF Ambassador for Peace  for his all-round efforts.  This certificate, awarded by UPF to those who make a special contribution to world peace, was presented to Ali by Josef R. (UPF Giessen).

Before the discussion got under way, Bogdan P. who had travelled from Austria to attend this event gave a short comment. He referred to two books which deal with the topic of this world café – religion in today’s society – namely ‘Blasphemous Thoughts’ by Slavoj Zizek and the Dalai Lama’s ‘Appeal to the World: Ethics are more important than Religion.’ Bogdan also reported about an initiative of youth UPF in the British parliament which attempts to stimulate young people to use their right to vote and to take an interest in democracy and society, and thus introduced the question that was to be in the centre point of discussion: ‘what role can religions play in Germany in 2015?’

The word café consisted of three rounds of constructive question and answers. The results were noted and presented towards the end of the plenary session.

  1. How can religious people actualize together the inviolable values and dignity of people in today’s society? What principles, commandments and values do religions impart?
  2. Is religion constructive or destructive for society and why?
  3. What contribution can authentic religious faith make, how can it be put into practice and what common goal has religion?

The results which we came to in our groups were as follows:

  1. (values, principles)
  • commandments: to love God
  • too many laws, too little love
  • what is spirituality? What role does God play?
  • what does it mean to be a religious person?
  • to have a deep understanding of the dignity of man starting in the family, in childhood.
  • the use of the media to spread the message
  • love stimulates values in those who love as well as in those who receive love.
  • do not do to the other what you would not wish on yourself-the inviolable value of man.
  • spiritual ethics is more important than religion
  • honesty, discipline, integrity; authenticity
  • conscience must be encouraged.
  1. (role of religion)
  • encourage community
  • preserve nature
  • encourage people with all resources available
  • the individual can involve himself in society with a  (religious) understanding of values
  • in a community, common values should be more important than tradition
  • bring a religious element into sport to connect people
  • essential questions such as what happens after death can only be answered by religion
  • the negative side of religion: many try to force their beliefs on others, but each must decide for himself
  • the positive side of religion: community, common sense virtues, absolute values, such as the 10 commandments
  • religion helps one to live according to values and is an orientation.
  • recognize and value differences
  • religious people may draw much strength from their beliefs
  • God energy ‘you become what you think’
  • rituals are good for inner peace but may be alienating for others
  1. (goals, vision)
  • Live an authentic life of faith. Not only does this bring individual happiness, but also happiness to others.
  • authentic faith encourages trust
  • vision: learn from mistakes, continue with self assurance
  • religions must cooperate for a better world
  • help people to be happy
  • encourage peace
  • give inspiration
  • live for the sake of the other
  • find one’s own faith; do not stay bound by authority
  • positive: religion as an aid to live according to values
  • religion as orientation

All the collected ideas and thoughts can hopefully serve as an impulse for further UPF events and projects for peace.

Reported by Marcel L. and Benedikta B.
Translated by Catriona V. (UPF Gießen)

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