“Political leaders – national and local governments – and religious leaders as well as civil society and academia need to encourage and practice mutual understanding, dialogue and participation of citizens of all religious backgrounds” stated Andreas KIEFER, Secretary General of the Congress, at the International Muslim Communities Congress (IMCC), held in Abu Dhabi on 8 and 9 May 2018.
Speaking on the “role of local authorities in integrating religious minorities and in promoting inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue and activities”, Mr KIEFER stressed the important part of the cities, towns and municipalities where different religious communities can experience and adapt their perceptions of each other. He welcomed the view of Dr. Ali Rashid AL NUAIMI, and Dr. Mohamed BECHARI, chair persons of this conference, who pointed out the need for national governments and religious leaders to work together with local governments.
“To achieve living together in diversity, peace and respect, local political and religious leaders have to enable minorities to be full participating members of the society they live in, and they have to ensure the good conditions in which minorities can practice their religion, traditions and cultural heritage” stressed Andreas KIEFER. In this regards, he presented the Toolkit for organising inter-cultural and inter-religious activities, developed by the Congress in 2015, to inform local and regional authorities more effectively about these new issues. This Toolkit is available in 37 languages.
Referring to the average age of Muslim populations, younger when compared to Europe, the Congress Secretary General also underlined the importance to consider the young generation as active citizens who contribute their share in building an inclusive society. “The Council of Europe has identified the reinforcement of democracy in schools as a fundamental source in the development of open and inclusive societies” he developed.
Andreas KIEFER finally reiterated the Congress commitment to develop and share good practice. “If there is a wish for co-operation and exchange in the framework of a structure of dialogue to be established after this conference, the Congress will seriously look into this” he concluded. To support the start of the World Council of Muslim Communities, which was established during the conference, Andreas KIEFER presented Dr. Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi with a complete set of the Toolkit and with the book “Gods in the cities – inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue at local level”, published by the Congress in 2007 and underlined, that existing work and findings should be used. The Congress and the Council of Europe had produced very relevant texts and developed policies and Action Plans in this respect.
Together with Councillor Ebrahim ADIA, member of the UK delegation to the Congress, Mr. KIEFER responded to the many concrete questions on the Toolkit and the Congress reports on the integration and inter-religious dialogue.