Towards Inclusive Societies in the Middle East Conference Full Report

Our conference’s full report (“Towards Inclusive Societies in the Middle East”
Ayia Napa, Cyprus, October 31 – November 2, 2019) by Karis Ailabouni:
“Inclusive societies based on equal rights remain at a distance as the Middle East continues to face radicalized religious and political movements. In light of this, Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture and the Christian Academic Forum for Citizenship in the Arab World (CAFCAW) organized its fifth international conference entitled, “Towards Inclusive Societies in the Middle East”, held in Cyprus from October 31 to November 2, 2019. The conference gathered 47 scholars, activists, and experts from around the world with the aim of stimulating critical dialogue on the factors that hinder equitable societies in the region. In an effort to practice inclusion, 29 (61%) of the conference participants were women, while 9 (19%) were youth under the age of 35. In addition, participants came from diverse national backgrounds. The majority hailed from the region, namely Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and UAE. However, participants also joined from the USA, Canada, Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, and the UK. The conference provided also a forum for Arab scholars from the diaspora to connect to their peers from the region. The forum’s diversity of participation inspired an unparalleled interdisciplinary, ecumenical, and interreligious discussion, through which participants could explore issues from multiple perspectives.

Following a welcome dinner on October 31, the event consisted of eight sessions and 22 paper presentations over two days. Sessions I and II provided a theoretical framing of inclusivity in political and theological terms. This led into sessions III and IV, which tackled gender justice as a critical form of inclusivity. On day 2, the morning consisted of two sets of parallel sessions. The first contextualized inclusivity through specific insights from Lebanon and Egypt, while the second brought unique interdisciplinary approaches to the theme- from philosophy, to germ theory, to natural resource management.

The conference also made space to include a flash panel on the revolution currently unfolding in Lebanon. As a scholarly forum rooted in everyday realities, it was necessary to include this session given its relevance to the themes of the conference and to the sociopolitical context of the region at large. Lebanese participants shared their diverse perspectives from the ground, reflecting on the opportunities and challenges of the revolution as a platform for people to affect social and political change.

Several important themes emerged from the discussions surrounding these sessions. Firstly, the bondage of minoritization and sectorization in the Middle East poses a challenge to inclusive societies. Through histories of colonialism and authoritarianism, Christians have been constructed to think of themselves as minorities and, therefore, inherently disempowered. This phenomenon calls for a radically inclusive, popular theology that rejects sectarianism.

Inclusivity, then, requires societies in the Middle East to learn from local history so that they might deconstruct oppressive power systems inherited from colonialist and authoritarian regimes. Rather than reproducing exclusivist modes of authority, there is an urgent need to build new social contracts that empower the participation of all people in public life. This necessitates not only the building of new political systems, but also a sociocultural shift in which people begin to understand political participation not as a privilege, but as an essential dimension of their being.

Therefore, there is a need to pursue a collective journey towards inclusive societies. This was brought to light in discussions tackling gender justice, as many women’s movements are already carving a place for themselves as equal citizens. For example, women are at the front lines of the revolution in Lebanon. Meanwhile, women Islamic activists in Palestine are challenging the dominant culture by studying Islam and building their religious practice. In addition, women in the Evangelical Church in Egypt are struggling to become ordained leaders in their church through subversive ministry. Youth in the Middle East are also actively excluded from participation in public life. Research presented in the conference showed youth’s growing disillusionment with their future. Although they are eager to better their own community, many feel they must ultimately go abroad to realize their dreams. The problematic of Arab youth and women’s exclusion calls for participatory processes that allow the marginalized in society to make their voices heard.

Finally, the conference concluded with a discussion of pressing topics that might be addressed in future conferences. The recommendations emphasized by participants included the following:

Public theology of the religious other
Liberation from exploitation and authoritarianism
Technology, Religion and virtual realities
The role of education in social change, peace, and reconciliation

CAFCAW executive committee decided to choose the theme of Education for the next year with a working title “The Future of Education in West Asia and North Africa: Education for the Future.”

The conference was utilized as a platform to launch Telos magazine (www.telosmagazine.org), a new online magazine with a focus on public theology.

In addition to the stimulating discussions that surrounded these sessions, one of the greatest successes of the conference occurred informally. Academics and activists from around the world were able to build new connections with one another, creating a network where ideas and experiences could be exchanged. As one participant noted, the conference succeeded in developing a community of scholars and practitioners. This allowed not only for rich and critical dialogue, but also opened endless possibilities for future”.

Source: Dar al Kalima University of Arts and Culture

CAFCAW Executive Committee
Telos Wana Magazine Editorial Committee

عن الحوار الإسلامي المسيحي، ذاكرة الحرب وبناء السلام في لبنان

Interested in the subject on Interfaith Dialogue, War Memory and Peacebuilding? This is the full version of my article, and you can have access to the PDF file on Telos’ site: https://www.telosmagazine.org/

Towards Inclusive Societies in the Middle East International Conference in Cyprus

Last preparations for the international conference “Towards Inclusive Societies in the Middle East” in Ayia Napa – Cyprus. Organized by CAFCAW and Dar al Kalima University of Arts and Culture. Oct.31st-Nov. 3rd 2019.

CAFCAW executive committee

CAFCAW WORKSHOP Towards an Inclusive Society in Lebanon?

Positive vibes, fruitful dialogue, critical thinking, and a beautiful blend of identities united in their differences around a common goal: building a better inclusive society.

Hotel Monroe, Beirut, September 28, 2019.

Women’s Rights in the Middle East Today: Law, Religion and Culture – Conference

I had the honor of participating in this wonderful gathering of scholars, activists and artists working on gender and women’s rights issues in Southwestern Asia and North Africa. Once again, Dar al Kalima University College of Arts and Culture and CAFCAW have succeeded in challenging the intellect and establishing a dialogue between diverse identities and currents. The conference was successful by the wide range of speakers and by the attendees who contributed to the constructive debates.

We finally presented excerpts of our paper Dr. Nadia Wardeh and I, entitled ‘Against the Current: Religious Authority, Gender and Interreligious Dialogue’. We argued that feminist and liberal thinking/doing interreligious dialogue is a marginalized reality in our region at the institutional level, and particularly when it comes to decision-making tables within and across religious sectarian borders. This is largely unsurprising in so far as the leadership of most religious communities continues to be predominantly male (and patriarchal). The way we see it, there is a need for a shift from complementarianism to egalitarianism, and especially the production and use of Christian and Islamic theologies of gender equality as pillars of thinking and doing interreligious dialogue.

Adams Beach Hotel, Ayia Napa, November 1-4 2018

Gender Justice/Equality in Lebanon Workshop

هل القوانين في لبنان تحمي حقوق المرأة وتعزز المساواة الجنسانية Gender Equality؟ ماذا عن تطبيقات القوانين والمعايير الاجتماعية والعقلية السائدة الابوية؟ وقوانين الأحوال الشخصية؟ كيف يمكن تمكين المرأة في القطاع السياسي والاقتصادي؟ ما هي الخطوات العملية التي يمكن للمواطنين والمجتمعات والأحزاب السياسية اتخاذها لتحقيق المساواة في الحقوق والفرص والواجبات؟ كيف يمكننا تفكيك الصور النمطية القائمة على النوع الاجتماعي؟ هذه بعض الأسئلة التي ناقشناها اليوم ضمن ورشة عمل عن المساواة الجنسانية في لبنان.

@hotelmonroe Beirut-Lebanon

October 14, 2018
Organized by CAFCAW
 Dr. Pamela Chrabieh Gender Equality Training Session

AUD Professor Leads Discussion on Religion-State Relations in the Middle East

Dr. Pamela Chrabieh talks democracy, democratic institutions, citizenship and advocacy

Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at AUD and a member of the Christian Academic Forum for Citizenship in the Arab World (CAFCAW) Executive Committee, met her peers during a workshop on Lebanese Youth and Citizenship held in Beirut recently.

Dr. Chrabieh comments, “The gathering of Middle Eastern Christian and Muslim scholars, religious leaders, media figures and politicians, initiates a regional dialogue between academicians from diverse backgrounds and identities, who debate issues related to religions-politics’ relations, interfaith dialogue, Christians’ roles and situations as well as theology of public life, and propose alternative worldviews, narratives and projects facing the culture of violence.

The CAFCAW forum was part of the ongoing academic work of the Executive Committee on the Religion-State relations in the Middle East, and on the roles of diverse stakeholders and activists in diversity management. The workshop gathered more than 25 young Lebanese and included trainings and conferences tackling the subjects of democracy, democratic institutions, citizenship and advocacy.

CAFCAW-DECEMBER-2015-PAMELA-CHRABIEH

This meeting and workshop followed 4 previous events held in 2014 and 2015 in Amman, Istanbul, Beirut, and Cyprus. Future initiatives include a Middle-Eastern Youth Conference in Cyprus in April 2016 and the publication of the July 2015 Conference proceedings.

About the Christian Academic Forum for Citizenship in the Arab World (CAFCAW)
CAFCAW is a forum that aims to provide a more public voice for Christians and interreligious dialogue in the Arab world. The association was established at its inaugural meeting in February 2014 in Istanbul under the Diyar Consortium, a Lutheran-based, ecumenically-oriented organization serving the whole Palestinian community, with emphasis on children, youth, and women. CAFCAW convened its second meeting in Istanbul in June 2014. CAFCAW’s third conference held on 5 and 6 December 2014 in Beirut served to create broad support among Christian and Muslim academics, stakeholders in interreligious dialogue, civil society and policy makers.

For more information on CAFCAW please click on the following link http://www.cafcaw.org

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– Source: AMERICAN UNIVERSITY IN DUBAI NEWS http://www.aud.edu/news_events/en/view/1068/current_upcoming/aud-professor-leads-discussion-on-religion-state-relations-in-the-middle-east#sthash.MsOUvd7o.dpuf