If there is one positive lesson that we can draw from this challenging COVID-19 period, then perhaps this one: we, like many other organisations, have discovered that the digital sphere is wonderfully suited to bridge the gaps between our seminars and in order to maintain the contact between our participants as well as to keep each other posted on current developments!
Furthermore, our digital meeting on November 17th served as a forum for discussion of the numerous political, social and societal upheavals of the last weeks from our manifold perspectives located all over Europe.
“What keeps you from sleeping at night? Which issues are preoccupying your minds?,” asked Gil Shohat, who recently started his work as Programme Manager at DialoguePerspectives, at the beginning of his input on pressing issues and developments since our last seminar: the critical situation in Poland regarding abortion legislation and its impact on women*, the preponderance of conspiracy myths pertaining to the Coronavirus pandemic, Islamist terrorist attacks in France, Austria and Germany and their implications for the polarised debate on the relationship between Islamism and secularism as well as the rise verbal and physical anti-Muslim abuse, and last but not least the impact of the US presidential election on our political realities in Europe. In the following, this by no means comprehensive list was expanded in discussion with the participants, commented on and specified before the installation of “breakout rooms” for the participants to foster further discussion on their preferred topics.
Despite most of the participants having spent several hours in their digital university seminars, plenty of them did not want the discussions to come to a halt after the completion of the breakout sessions, which is why our proposed closing time was expanded by full hour in order to give everybody enough time to voice their thoughts and opinions on current developments, albeit with historical twists. Thus, we for example talked and learned about the significance of medieval Jewish and Muslim philosophers from the Mediterranean region for our present-day philosophical heritage, the cultural influences on the practice of religions and much more.
“It is so nice to meet likeminded people with whom one can discuss such things” and “seeing all of you motivates me to continue all the different fights we face in our society” were just two exemplary quotes from a spontaneous feedback round within the group.
We will certainly continue these digital check-ins on a monthly basis in order to further strengthen our discussions. In the long run we at DialoguePerspectives want to develop these forums into a shared space where participants can present topics and issues they wish to discuss, develop methods of interreligious and world view dialogue as well as deepen their professional and personal connections.
We can’t wait for our next check-in to commence!
˝I attended several academic conferences on interreligious dialogue in the past, but I've never found a group like the one of DialoguePerspectives, that perfectly matches secularism with religions.
Eleonora, DialoguePerspectives participant