Austria supports the timely and useful initiatives taken by the UN-SG, the General Assembly and other bodies of the UN in forstering intercultural and interreligious dialogue. There is a worrying rise of radicalization and extremism in the name of religion, which is best being tackled by all actors concerned and through dialogue. We condemn such misuses of religion to justify violence against “others”, however they are branded.
In that context, Austria welcomes the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to prevent Violent Extremism that emphasizes the important role of community and faith leaders in order to prevent exclusion and to foster social cohesion.
Austria actively engages in intercultural and interreligious dialogue as an innovative tool in diplomacy. We share the resolve to approach religious leaders and making religion part of the solution. By concentrating on pastoral work, spiritual guidance and cooperating closely with government institutions, religious leaders can contribute to combating extremism and radicalization. When a number of Austrians left to join jihadists in the Middle East, faith communities, schools, the security sector and human rights institutions started working together to prevent further radicalization and to further deepen inclusiveness in the Austrian society.
Traditionally, Austria, and in particular our capital Vienna, has served as international platform for various dialogue initiatives. In fact, one of the main goals of Austrian foreign cultural policy constitutes in contributing to global trust-building and peaceful co-existence through intercultural and interreligious dialogue.
Whereas religions have a crucial role to play in maintaining international peace and security- they are also indispensable for maintaining social peace, inclusion and integration within states and societies.
Austria has experienced steady immigration migration over the last decades- sharply rising last year when nearly 90.000 refugees arrived in Austria. It is clear, that increasing cultural and religious diversity also comes with challenges for society. We regard faith communities as crucial partners to strengthen social cohesion and to guarantee peace and cooperation within our diverse society. Religious leaders should play a positive, bridge-building role.
Dialogue increases the resilience of societies, as dialogue efforts bring together religious leaders, policy makers and civil society, in particular on complex topics like last migration movements.
Some of Austria’s efforts promoting interreligious dialogue and tolerance:
- Foreign Minister Kurz has established a dialogue process with leaders of 16 legally recognized churches and religious communities in Austria, resulting in a joint declaration regarding: “Freedom of Religion, the protection of religious minorities and the rejection of violence in the name of religion”.
- The project “Dialogue and Integration trainings for religious representatives/Imams, female members of Austrian mosque associations and dialogue delegates” includes for example country familiarization training in Austria for religious representatives.
- The „Intercultural Achievement Award“ (IAA) aims at identifying and awarding innovative and solution-oriented projects both in Austria and on a global scale.
- The International Dialogue Center in Vienna (KAICIID) uses dialogue globally to prevent and resolve conflict, to enhance understanding and cooperation. KAICIID is the only intergovernmental organization with a diverse Board of Directors made up of representatives from major world religions.
- Austria actively supports the work of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. Vienna hosted the UNAOC Global Forum in 2013.
- Austria actively participates in the UN Interfaith Harmony week. In February 2016, representatives of the officially recognized Austrian churches, and faith communities, as well as representatives of civil society gathered at world famous Melk Abbey to deepen the peaceful cooperation.
- The Arab-European Young Leaders Forum (AEYLF) is an initiative with the aim to promote exchange and provide a network between young emerging leaders from Europe and the Arab world.