Interreligious dialogue: talking and sharing brings us closer

Interreligious dialogue: talking and sharing brings us closer

To be honest as always, I have never had an opportunity to facilitate any kind of educational process related to religion, interreligious dialogue or religious-self. I found myself really good as a trainer of human rights education, also as human rights defender… but interreligious dialogue? Atheist-agnostic-spiritual human from Serbia?

As a youth worker, your professional obligation and responsibility is to keep developing yourself continuously and to embrace lifelong learning concept forever. That’s something which is making this profession both exciting and challenging at the same time. Being aware that exploration of the religious – based approaches to peacemaking can be invaluable in promoting understanding and reconciliation, I readily took up the task to facilitate one of the workshops on the topic within the Human Rights Youth Forum. It turned out to be one of the smartest decisions this year.

It was my second time in Tirana – crazily exciting capital of Albania, with the aim to create space for constructive discussion on interreligious dialogue between young people from Albania and Serbia and to encourage understanding of freedom of expression as precondition for it.

Interreligious (or interfaith[1]) dialogue (IRD) is understood as an open and respectful exchange of views between individuals and groups with different religious backgrounds and heritage on the basis of mutual understanding and respect[2]. The ‘Golden rule’ introduced by the “The Declaration toward a Global Ethic” in this context promotes the conviction that people should treat others as they would wish to be treated.

[1] While two terms are most of the times used interchangeably, a distinction can also be made in a sense that interreligious refers to action between different Christian denominations or some particular religions.

[2] European Youth Forum tool kit definition

In youth work this is also a valuable topic, as it’s closely connected to efforts to unveil stereotypes, prejudices and prevent discrimination.

We’ve talked in Tirana about identity, intercultural dialogue, position of interreligious dialogue within, spiritual and religious selves (as integral parts of the identity) and so much more! You cannot imagine joy of youth in sharing stories and perceptions on religions of Albania and Serbia!

In Albania the percentage of Muslims remains stable at roughly 65% to 70%. About 20% of the population are members of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania (Albanian Orthodox) and about 10% are Roman Catholic. There are a few small Protestant groups. (via Nations Encyclopedia) A 2015 study on the Albanian youth aged 16-27 found that total of 80% of young people in Albania are not religion practioners.

In Serbia, 85% of Serbian population are Orthodox, 5,5% are Catholics, 1,1% are Protestants, 3,2% are Muslims, 2,6% didn’t declare and 2,6% are atheists. There are existing tendencies towards retraditionalization in Serbia, since more than half of young people declare themselves as religious, especially in the youngest categories of youth (among 15-19), Council of Europe’s review on youth policy and youth work in SEE claims. According to 2015 research, among youth – 84.8% are Orthodox Christian, 4.7% Catholic, 2.2% Muslim, 1.2% Protestant, while 5% of young people declare themselves atheist and 1.1 agnostic.

Mixed group of open-minded youth from two countries came up with four recommendations in the context of interreligious cooperation of Albania and Serbia which will be visible for wider public. I’m really grateful for their effort to create them, despite all the challenges the group faced during the process of their design. What I loved the most is their inner-readiness for honesty, for a bravery to talk openly on different cultural subtopics, differences and sometimes even prejudices about each other’s countries.

The biggest strength of the Forum was exactly the opportunity to talk and share. I can imagine one day that some of those beautiful young people could become decision makers in their countries (or internationally) and this Forum experience might be a priceless experience where they had possibility to deconstruct prejudices towards each other and cultures they came from.

It’s up to new generations of young people to continue establishing and nurturing proper intercultural and interreligious dialogue and overcome stereotypes and prejudices which are blocking both countries in peaceful regional cooperation. Only together we can achieve peace and only together we can make present and future amazing for living. For ALL young people.



Branislav Trudić

Coordinator in programmes of Youth work

Programme coordinator for capacity building and strategic planning

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