Up Close and Personal

30 November 2015

Humanity House hosted on 25 November the meeting Up Close and Personal. This seminar was organized by the Knowledge Centre Religion and Development together with ICCO Kerkinactie and Mensen met een Missie. During two interactive panel sessions, participants explored how religious and ethnic differences are constructed and bridged in societies around the world. Since questions around religion, radicalization and conflict are literally Up Close and Personal in Europe in the wake of recent attacks in Paris, it’s is more relevant now than ever to explore how people in Indonesia, Mali and Nigeria respond to polarization along religious lines as a result of violence and terror. 

Ingeberte Uitslag, trainer in the DPC-methodology, explained how polarization works as a dynamic that challenges people to choose position for either one pole or the other. The model became a recurring theme throughout the event, applied to the different cases. Guest speakers from Mensen met een Missie and KerkinActie shared examples from the work of partner NGOs in Indonesia, Nigeria and Mali and their efforts and experiences in countering polarization and responding to violence, radicalization and intolerance. These cases, amongst others, highlighted the importance of building personal relationships between polarized groups where they are able to encounter the other as a fellow human being. In addition the session also highlighted the role of tolerant religious messages and (religious) leadership to promote tolerance and peace.

Journalist Manon Stravens closed the session with a column about Boko Haram. Her main point touched upon the strategies that can be used to counter extremist groups like Boko Haram. Perhaps up close and personal encounters through bottom-up grass roots initiatives are more effective than military interventions, perhaps religious extremism needs a religious or ideological answer and not only a military one. 

The second panel discussion was introduced by two projects that use media and theatre to provide new perspectives on religious differences in MaliNigeria and The Netherlands. The main question was: what society do we want?

One of the drawings, made by Geert Bartelink, which were drawn during the symposium. Interested in the other drawings that were made during this symposium? Download the pdf.

Arnold Yasin Mol, lecturer at the Islamic knowledge institute FAHM reflected on the current pressure on Muslims to speak out against extremists. Political philosopher Femke Kaulingfreks built on this by stating that it is Up Close and Personal for everyone. Yet the majority in Dutch society tends to ignore underlying dynamics and exclusion and therefore turns blind its own racism!

Up Close and Personal was a dynamic event touching upon many different strategies, best practices and critical questions. In the coming weeks we will share in a number of blog posts with you various insights from this meeting aiming to provide food for thought for more in-depth discussion on the questions that were raised. Hopefully it will be an inspiration for up close and personal cooperation in the future.

Column by Manon Stravens (DUTCH)
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