When Kaiciid’s 2nd European Policy Dialogue Forum on Refugees and Migrants started on November 3 it was with a heavy heart. The night before a terrorist had shot and killed four persons in down-town Vienna. Together we joined Austria in a minute of silence, mourning with those who lost loved ones in the attack.
To me, and I am sure many of the participants, this again highlighted the importance of working on social inclusion and towards a strengthened social cohesion in Europe, and the forum committed to two days of intense discussions.
Three thematic tracks made up the forum: Reshaping narratives on migration, Building trust in local communities and Strengthening social inclusion in education. Members of A World of Neighbours network will be well familiar with the two latter, with two working groups within the programme, Receiving communities och Narrative & Media, having addressed both topics.
Some of the key take away points from the track Reshaping narratives on migration was for example the need to include the voices of refugees and migrants to have a positive narrative and to break the cycle of demonizing language. Hence the Kaiciid forum further confirmed that these are areas that needs to be brought to the attention of policymakers in Europe!
In the track on Building trust in local communities, Dr Andrew Orton from Durham University discussed why it is so difficult to find ways to interact over perceived boarders, even though we all know that that is a key to two-way integration. When prejudice, parallel lives, discrimination and experiences of injustice makes it difficult for us to interact, he suggested faith actors are well positioned to challenge those boarders and invite people in to “safe spaces”.
However, Dr Orton also encouraged faith based actors to focus on “brave spaces” – places that intentionally opens up for the difficult dialogues necessary in our society, and to throughout take the responsibility for “curated space”, acknowledging that meetings do not “just happened”, but needs to be curated to include as many voices and perspectives as possible.
In the track focusing on Strengthening social inclusion in education the forum discussed the need to reform the educational system to make it possible for young refugees and migrants to translate grades between educational systems. This track also brought the attention to the need for cultural- and religious mediators in schools, to act as bridge builders both between pupils and students, and between parents and the schools, to open up for richer and more creative conversations and understanding between families and the school system.
The Forum gathered around 80 participants from all over Europe in a rich conversation that will now continue.
– The next steps for us are on the side of the Network for Dialogue to have informal working groups consisting of Network for Dialogue members and interesting participants of the Forum to work on policy briefs that will be presented to religious leaders and experts and then published in March 2021, as three Network for Dialogue Policy Briefs, said Johannes Langer, Programme Manager, Social Inclusion of People Seeking Refuge in Europe, at Kaiciid.
Blessings to Kaiciid in this important work with furthering the agenda of social inclusion processes in Europe!
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Ph D Anna Hjälm is the Programme Director of Interreligious Praxis for Peace – A World of Neighbours and attended the Kaiciid Meeting in this capacity.
Have a look at her reading recommendation! Dr Andrew Orton’s interesting article Interfaith dialogue: Seven key questions for theory, policy and practice (2016).