A conference on the "Role of Official Religious Institutions in Promoting Dialogue and Peace Processes" was organised on 18 and 19 April 2017 by the Berghof Foundation in cooperation with the Lebanese Dar al-Fatwa and was held at the venue of the latter in Beirut, Lebanon. In addition to the Grand Muftis of Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan as well as representatives from Al-Azhar, over 200 participants from different backgrounds attended the two-day conference, mainly ambassadors, ministers, members of parliament, religious figures as well as representatives of civil society organisations.
The conference discussed the importance of intra- and interreligious dialogue, in Lebanon and at the regional level, in strengthening tolerance, stability and peace in times of increasing radicalisation as well as its potential in sending out joint messages of tolerance and moderation in the Arab region. It also called for further regular regional exchange between Sunni religious leaders on the one hand, and between these leaders and respective political decision makers on the other hand in order to coordinate and complement efforts of restoring peace and security in the region.
Moreover, the panellists discussed the key role that religious authorities could play in promoting peaceful coexistence, religious reform and ways of preventing radicalisation in fragile societies. The speakers highlighted the importance of promoting human rights and values of peaceful coexistence within society and different religious communities to guarantee peace in the region. They also stressed the need for religious institutions to increase their efforts in reforming religious education, training of Imams, creating more space for exchange and dialogue, and strengthening cooperation with civil society organisations.
Finally, the conference resulted in three main outcomes: firstly, the representatives of the religious institutions present highlighted the importance of reforming religious education and the training of teachers as a means to prevent radical ideologies and spread the message of peace. Secondly, religious institutions need to be included in peace and dialogue processes in the region and play an active role in developing the potential of religious authorities in promoting peace and dialogue. Thirdly, preventing and countering violent extremism is a common international problem that requires united efforts from different countries, religions and institutions to be overcome.
The relevance of the topic was echoed by the broad media interest and coverage. Below is an excerpt of the articles published on the conference: