Interreligious Dialogue: A Way Toward Peace?

Religious Symbol, Wikicommons

On Thursday 3rd of December, the Parliament of the World’s Religions opened the doors of its 5th parliamentary session in Melbourne, Australia. The first session took place on 1893 at the World Exposition of Chicago.  The parliament waited 100 years to host its second parliamentary session and since 1993, the inter-religious body has met every 5 years.

At its first meeting, the assembly wanted to promote a better understanding of different cultures and already called for peaceful relations between all religions. They also called for a common understanding of faith, exemplified by Indian Hindu delegate Swami Vivekananda’s call: “if there is ever to be a universal religion, it must be one which will hold no location in place or time; which will be infinite, like the God it will preach; whose Son shines upon the followers of Krishna or Christ, saints or sinners, alike; which will not be the Brahman or Buddhist, Christian or Mohammedan [Muslim], but the sum total of all these”.

After 100 years of inactivity, the assembly has started to play a proactive role in what is called para- or indirect diplomacy; ensuring that different religions and populations exchange views and opinions on global affairs with a religious perspective; the final goal being peace.  For example, in 1999 the assembly focused on HIV/AIDS. This year, the parliament will focus on the rights of indigenous people and on climate change.

Where Is Turkey Going?

Prime Minister of Turkey Erdogan, courtesy of the United Nations/flickr
Prime Minister of Turkey Erdogan, courtesy of the United Nations/flickr

Political relations between Turkey and its neighbors have significantly changed. We can distinguish six major shifts in Turkish foreign policy within the last three months that could be considered historic:

Conference Marathon: Follow Up

Mujahiden/Photo: Erwin Lux/Wikipedia
Mujahiden/Photo: Erwin Lux/Wikipedia

As I told you in my last blog post, last week I went to two conferences in Switzerland: swisspeace and UNO-Academia.

The swisspeace conference focused non-state actors and featured brilliant speakers with first-hand experience with the topic. We listened to a former IRA fighter and various academics that had conducted dialogue between non-state armed groups (NSAG) and governmental forces.

Conference Marathon

Swisspeace Annual Conference
Swisspeace Annual Conference

On Tuesday, 3 November I will attend the Swisspeace Annual Conference. The topic is “Rebels with a Cause? Understanding and Dealing with Non-State Armed Groups During and After Violent Conflicts.”

The Swiss NGO has invited some high-level speakers that have field experience in negotiation with non-state actors, such as the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, and our partner Small Arms Survey. For more information on non-state actors, you can check the ISN keyword on our website that contains a lot of publications.

Then on the following Thursday, I will attend the annual conference of UNO-Academia on “Collective Security and Maintenance of International Peace and Security: What are the Stakes?”. UNO-Academia is a network between all the Swiss universities that gathers research on UN-related topics.

According to the program, academics will be joined by policymakers to develop a comprehensive approach on the above mentioned question. For a short summary of the concept of “Collective Security”, you can check out this story from ISN Security Watch partner World Affairs Journal by Peter Beinart. The conference will be preceded by a roundtable discussion in which I have been invited to speak:  “Youth Meets the United Nations: Which Role for Youth in the United Nations?”.

Of course, I’ll update you next week with the outcomes of these conferences. If it happens that you are also taking part in the same conferences, it would be a pleasure to meet you there.

Seek And Ye Shall Find, Sort Of / /

The latest addition to the search engine world is, an Islam-based service:

According to the site: “ is search engine designed for Muslims to be able to continue their online activities in a safe and clean environment. Using will prevent you from ‘accidentally’ bumping into explicit content.”

For example, if you search for “pig” or “beer” using the engine, you receive a warning telling you that your results may be haram (forbidden in Islam).

Search result for 'pig'from
Search result for 'pig' from

The word “sex” gets you on level 2 of the site’s haram scale. “Porno,” sends you to level 3, which welcomes you with a very strong red message.

But ImHalal isn’t the only religion-based search engine I’ve recently encountered: provides “God-honoring and spiritually encouraging” content, making sure all results are Bible based.

If you search for “Darwin” (as in Charles), you’ll find articles questioning his mental health. “Abortion” gives you tons of “pro-life” links and arguments.

Both sites promote themselves as providing a safe framework for followers to search the Web in.

And perhaps they’re right. The World Wide Web is also the ‘World Wild Web.’