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The power of interfaith and intercultural dialogue: How parliaments are joining the conversation


The 6th Intercultural Dialogue Forum took place in Baku, Azerbaijan in May 2024. © ANADOLU / Anadolu via AFP 

With religious tensions and interfaith violence posing significant threats to peace and security today, parliaments as state institutions and parliamentarians as representatives of their communities are beginning to engage more with religions and beliefs. 

With this in mind, in its 2022-2026 strategy, the IPU decided to pioneer a new approach which encourages parliaments to interact more with the ecosystems in which they operate, including representatives of governments, the United Nations, international organizations, academia, civil society, religions, beliefs and faith-based organizations. 

The approach seems to be working with the global parliamentary community which is increasingly using interfaith and intercultural dialogue as tools for promoting peaceful coexistence and the rule of law. 

Dialogue has been fundamental to the IPU’s mandate since its inception in 1889 and is streamlined into all of its work.

The 2017 IPU St. Petersburg Declaration on Promoting cultural pluralism and peace through interfaith and inter-ethnic dialogue recognized that dialogue with faiths, cultures and ethnicities was essential to peace and cultural pluralism and that, as representatives of the people, the world’s parliaments were committed to strengthening normative processes and legal frameworks. 

More recently, the 2023 IPU Manama Declaration on Promoting peaceful coexistence and inclusive societies: Fighting intolerance acknowledged the importance of dialogue, education and awareness-raising as tools for countering different forms of intolerance and fostering inclusion and peaceful coexistence. 

Dedicated events have been emerging for parliamentarians to share good practices on the contribution they or their parliaments are making to integrating interfaith and intercultural dialogue into the exercise of their functions of lawmaking, budgeting, representation and oversight.

The first Parliamentary Conference on Interfaith Dialogue: Working together for our common future took place in Marrakesh in June 2023. It was organized by the IPU together with the Parliament of the Kingdom of Morocco and other partners. Morocco has a long history of interfaith and intercultural engagement. Pope John Paul II visited Morocco in 1985, the first visit of a Pope to a Muslim country.

The Parliamentary Conference in Marrakesh was attended by over 70 parliamentary delegations. It concluded with the Marrakesh Communiqué, in which parliamentarians acknowledged that interfaith dialogue, which was grounded in support of fundamental rights and freedoms, was important for promoting inclusivity and peaceful coexistence, upholding the rule of law and encouraging collective efforts to achieve a better society, and providing concrete action-points for parliamentarians to follow to these ends. It was circulated at the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly and was acknowledged by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk in his Report to the 55th Session of the Human Rights Council. 

In February 2024, the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in strategic cooperation with the Muslim World League, organized a Conference meeting of parliamentarians and religious leaders for coexistence and peace, which was held in the debate chamber of the Parliament in Sarajevo. The Conference focused on the wisdoms and good practices of international experts and regional experts from the West Balkan countries vis-à-vis rebuilding cohesive societies in ethno-religiously diverse post-conflict settings and responding to global challenges. It concluded with the Sarajevo Declaration

In May 2024, the 6th World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue took place in Baku, Azerbaijan, under the motto Dialogue for Peace and Global Security: Cooperation and Interconnectivity. It was organized by the Republic of Azerbaijan, in partnership with UNESCO, UN Alliance of Civilizations, the Council of Europe, the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO) and UN Tourism.

The 6th World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue included, for the first time, an Inter‑Parliamentary Conference on The role and best practices of the legislature in the protection of cultural heritage. In attendance were current and former members of national parliaments, and representatives from international parliamentary institutions. Participation from Central Asia and other regional powers was particularly strong. The Conference was live-streamed on UN TV

The energy of the parliamentary community continues; preparations are currently underway for the second edition of the Parliamentary Conference on Interfaith Dialogue, which will be organized by the IPU together with the Italian Parliament and other partners, and take place in Rome in 2025, to coincide with the Year of Jubilee

There are also other active networks of parliamentarians engaging with religion and belief, including cross-party groups or organizations such as the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB), which has a human rights focus. In February 2024, IPPFoRB established a Southeast Europe network, in addition to networks already existing in Africa and Southeast Asia. 

The IPU continues to develop its own work in this area, in line with the commitments outlined in the Marrakesh Communiqué, including by producing Parliamentary Reports on Religion and Belief, engaging with United Nations bodies, experts, frameworks and commitments intersecting with religion and belief, and responding to the needs of IPU Members.