The second round of the Tunis Process – a Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute (DOC) initiatives exploring the relationships between Islam and Europe – took place Sunday in Rhodes following the Rhodes Forum, the DOC’s flagship ideas-driven global affairs conference.
Launched in the Tunisian capital this summer, the Tunis Process is a DOC initiative in partnership with the Al Jazeera Centre for Studies (AJCS), the LBH Foundation (LBH) and the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace.
DOC CEO Jean-Christophe Bas said:
“The outcomes of our initial symposium in Tunis in June led us to develop the Rhodes event based on the idea that after acknowledging ‘wounds of the past’ such as colonialism we must bridge discourses and develop initiatives that move away from long-held prejudices, fears, and misconceptions. Many dominant narratives in both Muslim-majority countries and in Europe are widening the gap between communities and continue to hinder the co-creation of a common future.
“Dismantling misperceptions – exacerbated by xenophobia, ideological extremism, and exclusion of the ‘other’ – and creating inclusive paths need be at the core of initiatives, from the grassroots level to international policies. Only then can concrete initiatives that will have meaningful and lasting impacts be developed.”
The symposium in Rhodes – with the title “Overcoming Differences, Sharing Paths: Building Concrete Initiatives and Policies” – brought together a diverse group of civil society members, researchers, influencers, media, and policy experts. Presentations were followed by discussion among all participants and break-out groups to brainstorm concrete initiatives and policy recommendations.
The outcome of the Rhodes workshop will be a handbook of best practices and a series of civil society initiative ideas and policy recommendations to be presented to NGOs and policymakers at various levels of government, as well as other relevant stakeholders, such as business and the media and entertainment industry.
The two-day Tunis seminar showed that religious and ideological tensions and the need to forge common paths between Muslims and non-Muslims aren’t limited to Europe and Arab Muslim countries. Dynamics between Russia and Central Asia show many similarities between Europe and North Africa and the Levant, for instance. For this reason, the Rhodes workshop addressed the topic from the Russian and Central Asian perspectives.
Europe and Russia are often seen as two separate “poles” in the world order, but they both are dealing with the challenges of integrating Muslim populations and reconciling relations with their Muslim neighbours to the south. This double perspective on Muslim and non-Muslim relations makes the Tunis Process workshop at Rhodes unique and offers creative solutions that are more widely applicable.
The importance of active grassroots civil society organisations is imperative in all regions when it comes to interfaith dialogue because of their direct engagement with stakeholder populations. While government policies can contribute to change, often it is at the micro level where the strongest impact can occur. The involvement of youth initiatives is also critical, as their willingness and desire to reconcile differences and move forward can sometimes be stronger than with older generations.
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