By Ron Kronish
I flew on Austrian Airlines to Vienna three days ago with Palestinians and Jews from Israel and Palestine who were invited by the new King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) On the airplane we were all talking about how remarkable it is that Jews and Palestinians had the opportunity to meet educators from all over the world, at the invitation of the government of Saudi Arabia. All of this in one of the most important cultural capitals in Europe, which only 70 years ago was under the control of German and Austrian Nazism, which wrought so much destruction and damage in Europe and the world.
So much has changed for the better in recent decades, but all too many people in the world are unfamiliar with these surprising educational and cultural developments, which is why I take the trouble to share these reflections on this blog.
The KAICIID center was inaugurated just one year ago, and during the last year it has been focusing on regional conferences which led to the global conference this week in Vienna on the theme of “the Image of the Other” in interreligious and intercultural education. Since this has been my main work in Israel for the past 22 years, I was eager to learn from other educators from around the world what they are doing in this field.
During these past few days, I was inspired by many people –and especially by the KAICIID team– and by their deep commitment to the power of dialogue and education in bringing about mutual understanding and the respect of each other’s culture and religion. I have been saying this for many years, and have often felt very lonely, so I was grateful for the opportunity to discover many colleagues who are also strongly committed to this.
In particular, I was deeply impressed by the opening remarks of the Secretary-General of KAICIID, Faisal Bin Abdurahman Bin Muaammar, who said quite clearly that the aim of his center is “to provide a new paradigm for tackling the challenges of fostering interreligious and intercultural understanding.” He explained quite cogently that “through dialogue , we facilitate aspirations that are common to all communities.”