WSCF Europe            

Shortcut Navigation:

World Student Christian Federation Europe Region Living faith together for justice. Learn More


  1. Mozaik 34: Bridging our Differences: Learning Skills of Intercultural Dialogue Together

    Mozaik 34 Cover

    How do we relate to each other across different cultures? Is it possible to approach  heated disputes in a peaceful way? Are religious differences always a hindrance to friendship and cooperation?

    Read the articles from the newest Mozaik:

    James Jackson- Editoral

    1. Faith

    Rachel Power Interreligious Dialogue as a Means to Peacebuilding

    Rui  Ceolho  Bad Faith: The Shortcomings of Catholic Doctrine on Interreligious Dialogue

    James Jackson – Interfaith Sufi Spirituality Interview with Thomas Gilet

    2. Dialogue

    Peter HaresnapeA Spirituality of Decolonization

    Vjekoslav Saje History of the Interreligious  Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina

    Natalia RudnichenkoThe World and Ukraine

    3. Foundation

    Natia Tsinstadze – A letter from new Regional Secretary 

    WSCF-  Prayer for Peace

    Pip SidesPoetry

    Yuliia Bajelidze– My Word on WSCF Events


    January 2nd, 2017 1:45 pm | Continue Reading
  2. Mozaik 32: Federation Issue

    Mozaik 32 cover

    Here is the special issue of Mozaik, which reflects on the life of the Federation in first half of 2013. Here you will find  reports on WSCF Europe events, portraits of our SCMs as well as texts on other important topics which influenced our lives in the past months.

    Read the articles from the newest Mozaik:

    Pawel PUSTELNIK – Editorial

    The WSCF Europe

    Sofie BONDE ERIKSEN – The WSCF Europe Office and its Staff

    Sofie BONDE ERIKSEN – What is this thing called World Student Christian Federation (WSCF)?

    John DELAP – Doubts on the Danube

    SCM Portraits

    Gaute BRAEKKEN – Student Christian Movement in Norway – Norges kristelige studentforbund

    Magdalena NASUTA in conversation with Pawel PUSTELNIK – Polish does not always mean Catholic

    Mirian GAMREKELASHVILI – The Young Christians for Peace and Democracy

    Bible reflections

    We asked three different SCMers to reflect on the same Bible passage. David, Ole and Jackline share their thoughts on Luke 16: 19-31

    David CLEARY –Short-term gain, long-term pain

    Ole MADSEN – Not anger but pity

    Jackline KAYATTA – While the rich man enjoyed his wealth…

    What’s on?

    Alex and Sarah MOORE – Native speakers in Romania

    Lucian CIRLAN in conversation with Pawel PUSTELNIK – Lingua Franca today and tomorrow 

    Lina LEONAVICIUTE – My way to change the world

    Annelies VAN DE STEEG – Report on WSCF Staff and Officers meeting, February 2013, Vienna, Austria

    WSCF in the world

    Shantha READY ALONSO – Moving toward… Colombia!

    Elsy WAKIL – WSCF Middle East: Youth and Prayers 



    January 2nd, 2017 1:41 pm | Continue Reading
  3. Pip’s Poems;

    Pip’s Poems

    I try to live a faith that is Christian in love,

    Buddhist in compassion,

    Muslim in Prayer,

    Jewish in mysticism

    Sikh in Service

    Marxist in Equality

    Hindu in Inclusivisity

    Ba’Hai in Nationalism

    Pagan in Nature

    Dionysian in worship

    Zorastian in Fire


    Our Prophets spoke of Love,

    with the wisdom from above,

    The Earth is bleeding,

    its time for healing,

    we are one human race,

    so look beyond my face,

    Separation is just an illusion

    Now its time for fusion.

    France the Land of Liberty,

    needs to respect her minority

    Sarkozy thinks its OK to send the Roma away;

    But that is not the way, we want to behave

    Belgium Brussels your the HQ.Romanian People we love you;

    If you crave a gloomy hour,

    Read a little Schopenhauer

    Germany’s got Marx and Nietzsche

    An explosion in my head something to free me,

    Czech’s got Prague and Kafka

    Slovakia’s got the Tatras;

    Macedonia has poetry I want to know more;

    Thank you to the Latvian who opened our door,

    Britain’s got royalty and afternoon tea,

    Italy Berlusconi, will they ever be free?

    Iceland has beauty but she ran out of Cash

    Banks asked for it back and she sent them ASH

    Bosnia gave us such hospitality;

    Thank you all for listening to me’.
    Composed with inspiration of Grégoire Vuilleumier at the Fundamentalism or Responsible Citizenship conference, Sarajevo 2010.

    Pip Sides 


    February 3rd, 2015 10:09 am | Continue Reading
  4. WSCF Prayer for Peace

    To you Almighty God we pray
    For you have suffered on the cross and knew what it’s like to suffer
    Comfort the mothers of the martyrs in our countries and especially Syria, Iraq and Palestine
    Comfort those who are enduring injustice upon claiming their rights in having a decent life

    To you Almighty God we pray
    To soothe the pain of our brothers and sisters, men and women, elders and kids who suffer on a daily basis
    To give strength to the kidnapped ones, those who will no longer feel the warmth of their homes
    To help those who bear the scars of painful memories in both their souls and bodies

    Almighty God
    Come rest among us and between us, in the hope that the homeless will find their way back
    Guide us and lead us on this rough road, for we willingly had left everything behind to face our tomorrow
    We pray for you with all the faith we’ve got, hoping that you build in each heart an immortal altar instead of all the destroyed churches

    King of peace
    Let your peace reign on our region so we live as one in harmony, peace and love, as you are one with your Father and Holy Spirit



    February 3rd, 2015 10:10 am | Continue Reading
  5. A letter from our new Regional Secretary

    Dear friends,

    I am honoured and privileged to address you for the first time in my new role as Regional Secretary of WSCF Europe. It gives me great pleasure and enormous responsibility to be with you in the WSCF and work alongside you to achieve our common objectives during these challenging times. I believe that my extensive experience in management and development areas in executive positions over the last ten years will help me to successfully carry out my responsibilities as Regional Secretary. I strongly believe in living by and applying Christian values and principles to our daily lives. Through my human rights and interfaith work I have been able to combine my professional and personal interests. Working for and with the WSCF-E family will make these informal links even stronger and will allow me to work in the areas I feel so passionate about: building a just and peaceful world for all through our faith and passion

    During the next two years I will be committed to strengthening the WSCF presence at all levels, with a special focus on achieving more synergy between local movements and regional and global structures. This synergy is particularly important through the current turbulent period of crisis and social changes. We need to share, reconcile and unite to grow and succeed in our vision.

    I believe the WSCF-E events and initiatives will bring together more national and local movements and will become a platform to exchange and develop our common and individual strategies. These regular meetings and cooperation should be the guarantee and dynamo of moving forward nationally and locally.

    I am keen to learn lessons from our past and look forward to applying some new approaches and perspectives to future development. I count on the support and enthusiasm of our volunteers in the European Executive Committee and many others across the world and I hope our joint venture will get us closer to achieving our vision.

    I am excited for the forthcoming opportunities in 2015 to meet many of you personally at our Staff & Officers Meeting in Madrid and the General Assembly in Colombia. On my journey with the WSCF I am open for and welcome your ideas, suggestions and criticism: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”, as Helen Keller said.

    I am grateful to share the blessings of this year together and may I also take this opportunity and joy to wish you all the best in this celebration of faith and love

    With love from,

    Natia Tsintsadze


    February 3rd, 2015 12:09 pm | Continue Reading
  6. The World & Ukraine

    War in Ukraine: what are prospects of peaceful future?

    Now the world is glancing at Ukraine – and from the abroad sometimes it is very difficult to understand what is going in my country. It happened so that writing of this article coincided with my press trip to the Western Ukraine. This time I paid much attention to different regional feelings – yes, it is different area with different culture, geography and history.

    Anyway, I remember a similar observation in my early childhood in the time of Soviet Union or in the first years post-independence when regional differences were not perceived as problems. Rather these were peculiarities which made Ukraine as a country richer and more interesting for each resident. And then “something” happened in 2004 while a peaceful up-rising and meetings during presidential election campaign of the Orange revolution when then Prime Minister Victor Yanukovich, representative of Eastern, Donetsk region, and former National Bank Governor and patriotic candidate Victor Yushchenko were in clash for presidential position. It was like a form of political technology to divide East and West into different worlds and fix these into people’s mentality. In 2014 it was used for the “separatist” war.

    How it can be overcome – this is a difficult question. First of all, it depends on local residents – to what degree they can forget and live further with painful memories and experience. Secondly, eastern towns and cities are badly destroyed now and need substantial renovations. Ukraine has had experience of replacing people after disaster – with the Chernobyl catastrophe. Also we have veterans of Afghanistan who can share how to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder. It will be a long story working out how to live with this, anyway. Now some rely on oligarchs who can allocate some money to renovate destroyed lands – previous years they robbed these regions and the state budget, making their own wealth enormous.

    What policy should the current president implement? Federalization with vast cultural and autonomy? Leave everything like it had been previously? The best model for modern Ukraine in my opinion surprisingly seems to be Soviet model when all regions live with one ideology – basic Ukrainian language, traditions, where regional difference was taken for granted. For me it is obvious that the war conflict in Ukraine was artificial – there was no need to resolve the issues of “separation” by military aggression. There are political methods for resolving this situation such as negotiations, referendums, polls ect. Moreover, new states or “republics” are not approved internationally if they have been created by illegal methods.

    The position of the church is not clear in terms of whether the top church authorities are powerful to such a degree to punish those who implement fighting. Even though both Russia and Ukraine are predominantly Orthodox countries this didn’t stop the conflict or political situation. For many Ukrainians it is logical that the Ukrainian army protects legal borders and lands of the country so it may sound cruel but many of my compatriots had no compassion for the dead and wounded on “other side” – this is war and human compassion is not on time because next time somebody can come to your house and if you are not strong enough, you will lose everything – that is the basis of this.

    The events of the East of Ukraine proved once again that material world is very fragile. We all are human beings with basic needs – basic eating, lodging, clothes. Many of my compatriots in the East lost everything – families, houses, literally their whole life. I think they will re-estimate their life values and visions. And in this connection Christianity and different churches can contribute enormously to restoring peace in my country.

    Natalia Rudnichenko


    February 3rd, 2015 11:48 am | Continue Reading
  7. Interview with Thomas Interfaith Sufi Spirituality

    So Thomas, before we begin, how about you can tell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from?

    I am from France, born in Sarlat, a famously historic place where people have been living for a very long time.

    So what is your family background?

    Both my parents felt a spiritual need for something more than Catholicism- I don’t know what was missing, not something pragmatic but just a feeling. They both felt this need separately before they met in a providential way; they were looking for the same book in a small bookshop and afterwards started dating. After they got married they investigated Buddhism, Judaism, and Protestantism trying to find their own way. My father travelled around the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya). At one point my father heard about a very famous North African master called Sheikh Khaled Bentounes, master of Tariqa Alawiyya, a Sufi religious organisation. He went to Paris to see him speak at a conference and he had a spiritual conversion experience; he felt this was his “way” so, in 1987 both my parents became Muslim and part of Tariqa Alawiyya, when I was 1 year old, so I was brought up totally in the spiritual Sufi tradition. They follow the basic rules of Islam but they still look French.  They came to Islam through Sufism, the opposite of most people, who usually discover Sufism after already being Muslim. Generally in Europe people born into Islamic cultures focus on the cultural aspects rather than the spiritual. Sufism is a mystical Sunni tradition.

    Nowadays, a lot of people come to Islam because they feel lost in their life and they want the strict rules of Islam to rebuild their life thought the rules, and they forget the rules and traditions of their own culture. My parents are the exact opposite. My parents wanted something totally different. They wanted to find the deepest feeling of the meaning of life, more spiritual and really alive – as there was a real master in front of them when they converted. This is like how people react to the Dalai Lama. There is something different about him. God gives everyone different skills some people are good at science, mathematics, etc.; personally I’m good at understanding people, that’s my gift, I’m bad with computers for example.

     And so to what degree do you practice? You drink alcohol right?

    In Sufism people don’t drink. From my personal perspective, drinking one glass doesn’t matter, as long as you have your conscience, because you have to be responsible for all your life. God gave you consciousness, so you have to keep it. Drunkenness makes you irresponsible and you must always be responsible to god, that’s why it’s forbidden. Everything that makes you lose your mind is forbidden. So in my personal perspective it’s not really forbidden to have a drink but to be drunk because you lose your consciousness.

    I was never a big drinker before I got into Sufism more deeply when I was 21. I was thinking about life deeply before that, everybody called me a philosopher, so I felt like I wanted to do it more deeply, and I’m still trying!

    I was educated in a spiritual way, and so when I go to Buddhist people or Sikh people I feel at home, I feel the same spirituality as them, we have the same values, mainly fraternité, caring about human beings (I have also this felt at a Buddhist/Dharma conference in the UK). We share compassion towards animals, killing them in a way that’s respectful of their way of life. Halal, by the way, is not just about killing animals, but it’s about living a righteous life.

    From my perspective, religions are all one piece of the same puzzle. In every piece we have the same puzzle but they have differently developed parts. So for Sikhism, there is a great emphasis on compassion. I’ve personally never heard of as much compassion in Islam as I have in Sikhism. This helped me discover that when you see another religion you are able to know more about the subject that is developing more than in your own religion. So if I stayed only with Sufis I wouldn’t have heard about compassion in the same way. However I should point out that a real Sufi is a saint, someone who is very very close to God; I am just a Fakir (someone desiring knowledge of God).

    How do believers from traditional Muslim cultures like North Africa react to your unorthodox views?

    The good thing is I don’t look like a Muslim. I can talk to a Muslim guy and not tell him I’m a Muslim. Sometimes I don’t tell them because they might not understand the journey I’m on, and might not be sympathetic because I don’t pray. Sufism is a real way of living, not just a set of rules. I grew up outside of a Muslim community so I have the spiritual way but not the cultural or legal way. So spiritual people understand me but it’s problematic for more practical legalistic people. God will give the authorization to pray when I will be ready to do it. Prayer is not just the practice, it is something more deep. One is allowed to do something when you’re ready, that’s a typical Sufi attitude. Sufis don’t push you, but try to help you on your way. Sufism is about a link between you and God, the Sheik is just there to help.

    And what about prayer?

    My main goal is to practice the law more. With your legs, you need both of them to walk; in the same way you need both law and spirituality to serve God. God gives you what you need in the right place at the right time. When I said to my master I need to go forward religiously, he said to keep going on my path. This July he is allowing me to go on a spiritual retreat.

    Do you have a particular place of worship in London? I take it you don’t go to Finsbury Park mosque (a famous fundamentalist mosque).

    I don’t go to the Mosque because I’m too strange for them there because I’m white and into interfaith spirituality.

    So where does Sufism come from? Give me a bit of history.

    It has been around since the beginning of Islam, and it gained another form in the 16th Century. Sufism was practiced in Turkey and in the Ottoman Empire, in Senegal and in North Africa. The famous Persian poet Rumi was Sufi.

    So how do you see interfaith work?  Is it a social exercise or a spiritual one for you?

    For me, it is definitely spiritual, because if you agree on the spiritual then you will manage all other topics. Let’s say we are in a deep conversation with Jewish people, then the superficial things won’t matter if you share a serious and helpful common point after, so maybe Kosher/Halal won’t seem like such a big difference afterwards. We should try to share our common points, to learn about the richness of our differences. The real richness is not in the common points, but the differences. First we must share the common point to create an atmosphere of brotherhood, and afterwards we then must learn about the differences.

    This is the real meaning of the v 13  Surat 49 (Yusuf Ali translation):

    “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”

     If everyone was the same then we wouldn’t learn from each other. This is true of man and woman as well, like Ying and Yang we share characteristics, but we need others to complete ourselves. The “pure/righteous” part encourages you to go through the religion into the spirituality, and then God will love you.

    This verse isn’t pushing Islam above all religions, it just wants to push you through the religion and through others. You have to respect others, because all nations and tribes are created by God, this is what I would say to a terrorist: look in your Quran, you must respect everyone, Germans, Americans Muslims, and Protestants… Practice not just the law but also the spirit, give food to your soul. If you do this, Allah will love you.

    What about people of no religion?

    It’s not a problem, I can learn from everybody. Religion first of all is a link between one physical person and one spiritual entity, between cult and culture in French. Everything someone does is cult in French, they don’t talk about anybody else, it’s the private relationship with God, but spirit is most importantly spirituality. We think of religion as purely social but the individual side has been forgotten, that is culture not religion, like drinking beer in Britain is culture it has nothing to do with God.

    Can a non-believer have a relationship with God? I don’t know, everyone has to find their own answer but God will still care for them, but the more you care about him the more he will care about you. “If you walk 1 step to God, he will run 2 to you,” it says something like that in the Quran.

    It’s up to each individual person. Personally, I’m not here to judge someone, I’m here to learn from them. I know for me spirituality is useful. If someone doesn’t find that, that’s not a problem for me as long they’re a good person, they can still be my friend and share my hospitality.   Sheik Khaled said he will give his advice to anyone, no problem, Muslim or not.

    James Jackson and Thomas Gilet 


    February 3rd, 2015 3:24 pm | Continue Reading
  8. Bad Faith: The Shortcomings of the Catholic Doctrine on Interreligious Dialogue

    It’s hard to watch the news today without seeing reports on religious violence. Despite the political reasons behind the intensive media coverage of certain extremist Islamic groups like Al-Qaeda or ISIS, it’s impossible to deny that across the history of mankind, faith has been the reason for many wars and suffering.

    This may be unexpected, especially since almost all religious traditions advocate for goodwill, empathy and solidarity, but it’s the reality. As the Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Kung affirms, “There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions. There will be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions”. That’s why, in the context of a violent world, it is important to take decisive steps on interreligious dialogue.

    This article explores the Catholic doctrine on interreligious dialogue with the aim of exposing how its inherent colonialist logic may obstruct severely any attempts of establishing mutual understanding and good relations between different faith traditions.

    Interreligious dialogue is the practice that tries to build positive, cooperative and constructive interactions between people of different religions or beliefs. The main goal of this initiatives is not to convince other groups of the superiority of our faith nor to change our beliefs in order to find common ground with them (what is called syncretism). We can only talk about interreligious dialogue when the aim of the interactions is to acheive acceptance among the participants. In this context, acceptance must be understood as a sum of good relations and mutual understanding.

    The history of interreligious dialogue is almost as old as religion itself. Since ancient times, there have been many men willing to engage pacifically with people from different backgrounds and learn from them. One example of this was the Emperor Akbar the Great who, in the 16th century adopted a policy of religious tolerance and plurality for the Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs in Mughal India.

    An historical mark on the development of interreligious dialogue was the creation, in 1893, of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. This attempt on creating a global dialogue of faiths resulted on a series of meetings of representatives of different churches and religious traditions, the last one in 2009, on Australia.

    After the World War II, efforts have intensified, especially among Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianism and Islam). In 1965, Nostra Aetate was published, as part of the Second Vatican Council documents. This text, which we will look into later, established the Catholic Church’s new position on interreligious dialogue. It was also during the 1960s that, motivated by the struggles of the civil rights movements, American religious institutions began a fruitful dialogue.

    The first World Day of Prayer for Peace was organized by Pope John Paul II and took place in Assisi, in 1986. Representatives of several Christian denominations (Orthodox, Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Mennonite, etc.), as well as Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Sikhism, Buddhism and others, gathered in the Italian town to pray toghether for peace. Since this historic event, two similar World Days of Prayer for Peace have taken place (1993 and 2002).

    Other initiatives and meetings have been organized by different parts and interreligious dialogue have become part everyday reality of religious institutions across the globe.

    The Catholic position on this, as stated on Nostra Aetate, is that since the various religions attempt to answer humankind existential questions as the moral good and the meaning of life, they are all valuable and all converge around the Truth. The document states:

    “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.”

    This recognition of the value of other religious manifestations opens the door to the construction of good relations among faiths. The same text exhorts the Catholic believers to engage in “dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions”. This interactions have as main goals the effort to “recognize, preserve and promote” the best cultural, spiritual and moral values “found among these men”, and to “promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom”.

    Another consequence of the recognition of the value of other beliefs is the reproval of “any theory or practice that leads to discrimination between man and man or people and people”, especially those advocating religio us intolerance and conflit.

    Later, in 1974, the Vatican’s Commission on Interreligious Relations published the Guidelines and Suggestions for Implementing the Conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate. The document maintains the same spirit of good-will and suggests fraternal dialogue, doctrinal research, prayer in common and even common social action “in the context of a search for social justice and for peace”.

    The apparent openness and good intentions of these documents contrast with the strong christocentric position stated on Lumen Gentium (another text of the Second Vatican Council). It defends the doctrine that Christ is the only saviour and mediator between humanity and God. Therefore, no one can reach spiritual bliss or salvation if not through the Church, here presented as the only gateway to Christ. The same text even advocates that “all men are called to belong to the new people of God [the Church]”.

    Simillar reasoning is found in the Catecism of the Catholic Church, the main compilation of Catholic doctrine compiled by Pope John Paul II, in 1992. It uses John 14:6, where Jesus says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”, to declare that Christ is the only“mediator and the way of salvation” and, so, “outside the Church there is no salvation”.

    This is in direct contradiction with the affirmation, in the same book, that “the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator”, namely Jews and Muslims. Taking this quotation in higher authority than the last ones, believers of Judaism and Islam may have a chance to attain salvation, by virtue of having shared spiritual roots with Christianity.

    Unfortunately, the same inconsistency doesn’t apply to non-Abrahamic religions. Their spiritual traditions, some of them even older than the Christian faith, are said to be a “search among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown” which benefits the believers by acting on their hearts “as a preparation for the Gospel”.

    Instead of an openness to true dialogue and mutual understanding, this kind of reasoning is syntomatic of a colonialist worldview. The colonial process was a movement of European expansionism. First by the means of sending missionaries and traders, and later through conquest and military occupation, the European powers spread their own cultural perspectives as well as their social, political and economic models all over the world.

    If the main material consequence of that process was the universalization of the capitalist economic system, the colonialist experience had also great implications in how we think about the world. It brought about the hegemony of western epistemology and, consequently, the subjugation or extinction of other worldviews and ways of thinking. This resulted in a cultural impoverishment of humanity.

    Boaventura Sousa Santos, a Portuguese sociologist, explores how the colonialist mentality took root on the human psique, giving birth to what the author calls “abysmal thought”.  He describes it as “a system of visible and unvisible divisions”. The divisions are established across lines which divide the social reality in two distinct universes: the universe of “this side of the line” and that of “the other side of the line”. Being exterior to our universe, the “other side of the line” is perceived with hostility and faced as an enemy.

    To sum up, abysmal thought is a pre-reflexive presupposition turned into a category of our perception that makes us perceive every empirical data according to hierarchical dichotomies.

    By this mentality, everything is divided in two opposing sides where one should be extended and universalized while the other is to be subordinated or even extinguished. Man-woman, heterosexual-homosexual, urban-rural and left-right (or right-left, depending on who is talking) are some of the contemporary categories that embody this kind of dualistic and hierarchical mindset.

    The abysmal thought is visibly present in the Catholic doctrine on interreligious dialogue. It’s statement that Christ is the only way, along with the belief that there is no salvation outside the Church, makes a radical distinction between those “on this side of the line”, the saved ones, and those “on the other side of the line” who are wrong and can hardly hope for anything good on the after-life unless they let themselves be absorbed into Christianity.

    If every other religion is undoubtedly erroneous, then there is little to learn from them and the point of interreligious dialogue is, at best, to keep the disagreement peaceful and, at worst, to convert our interlocutors, furthering the cultural homogenization and impoverishment that is at the heart of the colonialist edeavure.

    Despite the good intentions expressed by the Council on Nostra Aetate, the Catholic Church still advocates a position based on bad faith and doctrinal arrogance which threatens the efforts of interreligious dialogue and, consequently, world peace.

    Rui  Ceolho 


    February 3rd, 2015 11:33 am | Continue Reading
  9. Interreligious Dialogue as a Means to Peacebuilding


    It can be said that in our diverse societies it is now more common to meet and work with people who are different from us in culture and religion. Communication across cultural divides is a skill that you can learn.

    Religion is frequently cited as a cause of violent conflict, yet dialogue between faith communities often reveals that religion is not a primary source of tension. Moreover faith – based approaches to peacemaking can be invaluable in promoting understanding and reconciliation.

    This article will discuss two elements to peacemaking.   One is where religion is a source of conflict and the second is where religion is not a source of conflict. When talking about situations where religion is a source of conflict it necessary for religious communities and religious leaders to play a role in addressing the conflict. Even in those situations, almost universally, where we describe a conflict as being about religion – it is really about much more than religion. Religion may be a surrogate for other factors whether it is ethnic conflict and the ethnic divisions that may overlap with the religious divisions or whether its that one religious group is better off economically. Religion may be used as a means of mobilising a movement against the other group, however it is frequently not religion per se that is motivating the conflict or what lies behind the conflict.  So even where there is religious conflict, religion can be considered a much less a driving force than is often thought to be the case.

    When talking about religion not as a source of conflict, South Africa is a good example of this. In the struggle against apartheid it was religious leaders (particularly in the African community  – but also among liberal whites.) that were at the forefront of non violent protest, of pushing for change, of trying to break the conscience (the christian conscience) of those who were underpinning the apartheid system, or in the case of central America where conflicts have not been religiously motivated, not divided along religious lines, but where religious leaders have played a part in bringing out peace. David Smock said in his book Interfaith Dialogue and Peacebuilding that these weren’t religious conflicts but religious organisations and religious leaders were at the forefront of bringing peace there.


    Some of the challenges to faith-based peace building can be when some religious leaders have decided that they want to become involved in promoting peace. If some of those higher up in the hierarchy in the religious tradition are against this – and this can be the case, for example, in Sri Lanka I personally have seen it occur, where some of the higher ranking Buddhist teachers support the government in its work to combat the LTTE and they support the military intervention. So when other Buddhist leaders who are underneath them want to promote peace and want to promote political resolution to the conflict, they can go up against those within their own faith tradition, and they can go up against their own superiors, and that can create conflict within their own community. It can also, if those superiors respond to them by criticising them, delegitimate them. It can take away their very authority as a respected religious leader within their community.

    Interfaith dialogue is more than a conversation in several regards. One is, to say a conversation implies a kind of tranquility that is often absent in interfaith dialogue. A conversation suggests that two people are engaging in a discussion about something which they don‘t necessarily care passionately or don‘t necessarily disagree fundamentally with each other; but interfaith dialogue is more than a conversation in that it can generate deep-held emotions, it can touch at the very depths of people‘s being and their orientation toward life and toward the divine. But in addition, it‘s more than a conversation – if it‘s handled well – because it goes beyond talk: it goes to shared activities; it goes to attending each other‘s religious services; it goes to explaining to each other particular religious practices; it can entail joint activities where they‘re engaged together in some faith-based activity addressing some justice issue, or some human need together. So it goes well beyond just conversation. David Smock says in his book Interfaith Dialogue and Peacebuilding that it looks to “things that they can do jointly”.

    I think there is greater interest today in inter-religious dialogue because there is greater awareness of the ways in which religion has propelled conflict in the past, and there is greater interest in how to engage religious leaders and religious communities and organisations in efforts towards promoting peace. Often in the past the religious dimension of conflicts was ignored in efforts towards conflict resolution, and that meant that those religious actors and organisation who were potential partners for peace were ignored. There is greater recognition of this now, after the identity-based conflicts during the 90‘s in which religious nationalism sometimes played an important role, and following September 11th, which clearly drove home in the United States the salience of religion in international affairs and in conflict. This can also be seen from my own country with the Troubles in the North of Ireland.

    Religion is an important dimension that informs political policy, that informs international relations, and that it needs to be engaged, and there are plenty of resources within the religious realm, that can be engaged to promote peace and good governance and human rights around the world. When there are  divisions between religious communities and there are not avenues for engagement between them, this exacerbates distrust between communities that can lead to violence, and so there is a need for creating these avenues for engagement, these relationships between communities as a way to prevent violence on religious grounds from occurring again.

    In Practice

    Interfaith dialogue, once it‘s conceived by a group of religious leaders, is a major task. It‘s a systematic approach to thorough dialogue, to a point where you are asking individuals to think about their core values; what it means to be who they are, and how they relate to other people. To do this may sound like it‘s a conversation, but it is a very systematic approach. If you take a subject, a theme – and most dialogues are based on themes – you‘ll have a church and a mosque which are very interested in poverty, in helping child refugees in a conflict zone. They first have a dialogue; they think about why should Christians and Muslims be committed to children refugees in Darfur, Sudan. Why should they be committed? They‘ll speak about the historical issues, but then they‘ll get to the real issues. What is the praxis? What is the essential approach on the ground that we need to do? So the dialogue will then lead into steps, as two groups coming together. How do we help refugees? Where do we find local partners to save them? Where do we find clothes? How do we distribute those clothes? How do we protect them? Which politicians can we work with – that can help us – and which do we see as allies to help in our program protecting child refugees? So the dialogue might start as a conversation, but when it comes to a particular theme that affects conflict-stricken communities around the world, it‘s very structured, it‘s very systematic and it‘s very real in saving people‘s lives.

    An interfaith dialogue can adopt a variety of goals but it‘s essential that there are goals. To just meet with another community unprepared and expect something positive to come out of it is generally a false hope and expectation. The situation could deteriorate into accusations of one side against the other. The most extreme elements could speak out and make charges against the other community. So, you need to have goals and maybe a simple goal is to attend the religious services of the other community and have that community interpret what‘s happening at the religious service. That‘s probably the simplest form of dialogue. Or a discussion of religious texts where you talk about similar texts aimed at the same ethical principles, or the same theological principles, and explain where there are variations and differences between the texts.  Or to talk about issues from the ethical perspective of the three faiths and to talk about how the different faith traditions reflect on some public policy issue.

    I am going to finish off with a quote from David Smock in his book Interfaith Dialogue and Peacebuilding: “there are a range of ways that people can approach interfaith dialogue, but it‘s essential that the goals be set out and the methodology be agreed upon before you embark on it.”

    Rachel Power



    February 3rd, 2015 12:06 pm | Continue Reading
  10. Editoral

    Mozaik: Building our Bridges

    Welcome to a very special edition of Mozaik. I’m sure it’s obvious to everyone that this year has been an eventful one globally. From the Ukrainian revolution and conflict with Russian backed separatists, analysed in these pages by Ukrainian journalist Natalia Rudnichenko, to the fighting in Gaza and the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Within this context of global strife, the work of the ecumenical movement (including WSCF Europe) and all progressively minded Europeans is more vital than ever. Rather than staying within our metaphorical fortress, we have to reach out and engage with other cultures, whether this is through tackling xenophobia at home, peace-building between religions or simply loving a neighbour from a different country. We include in this magazine various visions of how to engage with this multifaith modern world, which paradoxically seems closer and yet more divided than ever.

    The title of this edition, Bridging Our Differences, is taken from a conference that took place in Wroclaw, Poland in March-April, organized with the cooperation of Religions for Peace and European Interfaith Youth Network, both interfaith NGOs. For this conference, young people from SCMs across Europe gathered together to learn about interacting with different faiths and cultures, including from Bosnian students, local faith leaders, and intercultural communications experts.

    In this edition will be a mosaic of introductions, articles, resources and prayer. This is my first edition as editor-in-chief, we have a relatively new permanent staff member based in Berlin Kathryn Cammish, and of course our new  Regional Sectary Natia Tsinstadze, who has written a letter introducing herself and laying out some of her plans for WSCF Europe over the next few years. We also have chosen to republish a prayer issued by WSCF Global to focus our prayers on the Middle East.

    We have an article by Rachel Power investigating the role of religion in peacebuilding rather than simply causing war; after this we have the history of the Interreligious Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina, written by one of its founders Vjekoslav Saje. We have an analysis of Catholic Doctrines of Intercultural dialogue and its failings, written by Rui Coehlo, a member of International Catholic Youth Students.

    We also have Peter Haresnape writing on his experience working as a member of a Christian Peacemaker Team fighting in Canada to protect indigenous rights, and a conversation about God and Faith with Thomas Gilet, who was born a French Catholic but converted to Sufi Islam in his 20s and is now an interfaith activist. Finally we have two passionate poems by Pip Sides drawing on spiritual themes across different religions and ideas from varied European cultures.

    And, as a final piece of news, this may be the final issue of Mozaik in this format as we are looking at embracing new technologies. I hope you enjoy reading it.

    James Jackson



    February 3rd, 2015 3:51 pm | Continue Reading