Bologna, Italy 6-7 March 2019

Religions and International Relations

At the intersection of Interreligious Engagement, Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) & Sustainable Development 

Organized by ISPI and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in the context of the European Academy of Religion’s Annual Conference

Interreligious Engagement

This meeting was part of the International Seminar on Religions and International Relations, organized by ISPI and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the context of the European Academy of Religion’s Annual Conference. Over two days, 33 leading scholars of religions and international relations, diplomats and policy makers and religious representatives gathered to explore opportunities for collaborative work across the policy agendas of Religious Engagement, Freedom of Religion or Belief, and Sustainable Development by evaluating the idea of Interreligious Engagement Strategies.

The idea emerged from a year-long consultation under the patronage of the 2018 Italian OSCE chairmanship led by the FoRB & Foreign Policy Initiative based at Sussex University, which began in March 2018. The meeting was a follow-up to last year’s workshop in Bologna, which marked the beginning of the consultation, aiming to develop a set of policy guidelines, on how interreligious dialogue and collaboration can be successfully operationalised to further the aims of peace, sustainable development and human rights protection.

The discussion moved from the evaluation of the consultation’s final report to discussing the implementation of interreligious engagement strategies and the opportunities presented by connecting them to other relevant agendas like SDGs.

This event provided an opportunity to brainstorm issues and topics that will become central to the follow-up event that will take place in the second part of 2019 to mark and celebrate the 10th anniversary of this Italian initiative.

At this year’s closed-door seminar, the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy (a forum of diplomats from North America, Europe, and the UN working on the intersection of religion, foreign policy, and international affairs) has been invited.

The meeting consisted of the two following events:

Event 1: Dialogue 4.0: The Role of Religious Communities in Fostering Inclusive Societies and Sustainable Development       
6 March 2019 – Oratorio San Giovanni Battista dei Fiorentini, Sala di Rappresentanza Banca di Bologna

The public roundtable was part of the 10th edition of the ISPI-MFAIC ‘Religions and International Relations’ Programme’ seminar. The roundtable, consisting of seven speakers, considered the need for a dialogical revolution, or Dialogue 4.0 – a new era of interreligious dialogue and collaboration to help humankind foster inclusive societies and sustainable development worldwide. The speakers also spoke to whether, in an ever more polarized world, policymakers should see religious actors as partners in building long-term strategies to foster pluralism, social cohesion and sustainable development.

Event 2: At the Intersection of Interreligious Engagement, Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) & Sustainable Development
6 -7 March 2019 – Palazzo Isolani

The two-day seminar examined religion as part of the problem, as well as part of the solution to the global problems the world is facing. Considering how religious and interreligious actors are still rarely welcome at the leading global policy tables, participants were asked to reflect on how new innovative secular-religious partnerships between governments and interreligious dynamics can be reinforced and rendered more impactful. Divided into three sessions, the first was a discussion of this consultation’s report  Interreligious Engagement Strategies: A Policy Tool to Advance Freedom of Religion or Belief since it was launched in December 2018 at the 25th OSCE Ministerial Council Meeting in Milan, the second looked at how to foster ‘religious literacy’ and ‘policy literacy’, led by members of the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy, and the third examined where the policy discussion on Religion and International Relations is going.