Objectives and structure of the website

This website aims at providing a concise overview of initiatives relating to interreligious dialogue in Austria. Those engaged in interreligious dialogue are usually familiar with a certain number of initiatives, a comprehensive overview, however, has not been available as of now. Nonetheless, completeness cannot be guaranteed since new initiatives continue to come into being while existing ones reduce their activities or cease to be active altogether. The administrators thus welcome any information on initiatives that may not have been included or on data that need to be corrected.

The dialog initiatives are recorded in a consistent uniform structure that is intended to clarify their individual characters. A conscious decision was made not to distinguish between small local initiatives and larger initiatives in order to avoid any value judgements. It is not intended to provide detailed and up-to-date information on the activities and events of the dialog initiatives. For this, reference is made to the websites of the respective initiatives. Changes will be incorporated as they become known. Follow-up research on developments within the individual initiatives and a general update of the website, supplemented by the recording of new initiatives, are usually carried out on an annual or bi-annual basis.

Also included were some initiatives which have been of great importance in interreligious dialogue for many years but are currently no longer active. Dialogue initiatives such as the Afro-Asian Institute Vienna or the King Abdallah Center for Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue (KAIICID), which shaped interreligious dialogue in Austria over a long period of time and had stood at the center of media debates, were incorporated in the list of initiatives presented on the website; lecture series and conferences from which important publications have emerged were also included because they document the history of interreligious dialogue in Austria. They are still significant, not only in historical terms, but also as sources of inspiration from which further projects have emerged or may emerge in the future.

Basic structure of the documentation (in alphabetical order):

  • Initiatives of Institutions:
    These include academic initiatives and cooperations promoting, mediating or analyzing interreligious dialogue as well as practical forms of interreligious cooperation in private, public or government institutions, p. e. hospitals.
  • Initiatives NGOs and Civil Society
    This section includes larger international organizations as well as non-profit associations and private initiatives with or without specified legal or organizational structure.
  • Government initiatives
    Initiatives by government institutions are further divided into national, federal or communal level initiatives.

“Interreligious dialogue” has not been specified normatively prior to the recording of the initiatives. Projects of scientific reflection on interreligious dialogue were also included, although such reflections may in part not be of dialogical character at all.

The website does not classify the existing initiatives in a preconceived understanding of dialogue but tries to cover all dialogue initiatives that can be associated with interreligious dialogue in the broadest sense or which consider themselves as interreligious dialogue initiatives. The transitions between intercultural and interreligious dialogue are usually fluid. Interreligious dialogue may be a subcategory of intercultural dialogue. Conversely, interreligious dialogue sometimes also focuses on intercultural issues.

Likewise, the boundaries between inter-religious and intra-religious dialogue are difficult to draw. Do dialogues with Jehovah's Witnesses or the Church of Latter-day Saints belong to intra-Christian ecumenical or interdenominational or to interreligious dialogue? Are dialogues between Sunni Muslims and Alevi to be classified as intra-Islamic dialogues or as dialogues between two religions? How should exchanges between the various currents and directions of Buddhism be classified?

A decision would presuppose a normative assessment that is untenable in terms of religious studies. For this reason, intra-Christian dialogues, which are usually referred to as ecumenical or interdenominational dialogues, are also referred to as dialogues between religions, with reference to the older concept of religion, in which Christian denominations are also referred to as religions.

Thus, instead of predefining what interreligious dialogue is, an inductive attempt is made to elicit the understanding of dialogue of the various initiatives from an overall perspective. This allows to empirically record and determine which understandings of interreligious dialogue exist in Austria. However, this analysis can only take place after the dialogue initiatives have been documented as exhaustively as possible, and thus represents a secondary objective of this project.

The information was largely extracted from the websites of the dialog initiatives. After completion of research and texts, all initiatives were contacted and asked to agree to publishing of the collected information. In addition, they had the opportunity to correct or supplement the documents. Nevertheless, these documentations do not present self-portrayals, but rather descriptive representations from the perspective of persons not involved in the dialogue initiatives.

We hope to present a clear and concise overview of interreligious and intrareligious initiatives in Austria which may be of interest not only to those who wish to inform themselves about interreligious initiatives. The website is also meant to be used as a resource for the initiatives to get to know similar projects, to enter into contact with other initiatives or to serve as a source of inspiration for further projects.