THE International Dialogue Centre - KAICIID organised a conference called Dialogue Cities Southeast Asia Conference in Bangkok from May 28th to 30th, 2023. The conference aimed to promote unity and cooperation by understanding how cities are utilising dialogue to bridge cultural, ethnic, and religious differences in the Southeast Asian region.
The conference brought together 60 experts, policymakers, religious leaders and youth and women-led initiatives from Southeast Asia's five cities- Yogyakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Davao, Singapore, and Bangkok- to exchange knowledge and practices in interreligious dialogue (IRD) and intercultural dialogue (ICD). One of the objectives of the conference was to promote regional cooperation and document ground-breaking IRD and ICD practices, particularly in the rapidly urbanizing Southeast Asian region.
The event was a good opportunity for the delegates to explore opportunities for enhancing a culture of dialogue within their respective cities. Moreover , it aimed to increase regional cooperation among city leaders and to document ways to globally promote innovative and ground-breaking IRD and ICD practices from one of the most religiously diverse and rapidly urbanising regions in the world.
As a KAICIID International Fellow, I was fortunate to lead the delegates from Davao City and be part of the conference planning and organizing committee. For the Davao delegation, we have representatives coming from Ateneo de Davao University, local government units of Davao, CSOs and NGOs from women, youth and indigenous peoples.
My take away in the conference is that in the modern world, metropolitan cities, like Davao City, have become melting pots of varied religious and cultural beliefs. Interreligious dialogue, which involves the exchanging of ideas and values among different religions, can play a significant role in building cohesive societies.
As an IRD advocate, I believe that one of the primary benefits of interreligious dialogue is that it fosters mutual understanding and respect among different religious communities. As people of different faiths come together to share their beliefs and practices, they can learn to appreciate the diversity of cultures and traditions present in the city. This, in turn, can help to dispel longstanding prejudices and stereotypes that may have previously existed between different religious groups. By promoting respect for different religious beliefs, interreligious dialogue can help to create a social environment where people can coexist peacefully and harmoniously. Davao City has been a very good example of Dialogue Cities that promotes the values of tolerance and acceptance, not only in the four corners of the classrooms, but has also legislated and supports programs and activities for a multi ethnic and multi religious metropolitan city.
Rev. Mike Waltner, Senior Programme Manager for the Asia Region Programme at KAICIID, expressed his enthusiasm for the event, stating that it will provide a platform for exchanging effective approaches and practices. KAICIID is looking forward to conducting the 2nd international conference in Davao City.