Opening ceremony: Religions in Dialogue

Symbolic picture for the article. The link opens the image in a large view.
At the opening ceremony (from left): Prof. Dr. Joachim Hornegger, Christian Zens, Prof. Dr. George Tamer, Joachim Herrmann and Bernd Sibler. photo: FAU/Harald SippelFAU/Harald Sippel

To investigate and promote the exchange between religions – against the background of religiously motivated violence, terrorism, anti-Semitism, and antipathy toward Islam, as well as the increased immigration to Europe of Muslim refugees, this work toward exchange has never been more important than now. This exchange will be advanced by the Bavarian Research Center for Inter-religious Discourses (BaFID), which has been established at the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU). The facility, founded in the past year and funded by the Free State of Bavaria, has now been officially opened.

“The three monotheistic religions are not rigidly closed units, but rather discursively lively entities that are mutually open both in themselves and to one another. One need only view them with the proper lens, in order to see their discursivity,” said BaFID director Professor Dr. Georges Tamer at the opening ceremony. “To show and analyze the profound discursivity of these three religions, including all their commonalities and differences, and to check this discursivity for its effect on inter-religious coexistence, is not only desirable for scholarship, but is also a societal and political necessity.”

The new research center, which is unique in its form in all of Germany, connects foundational research on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to the transfer of this knowledge into society. For the transfer of knowledge, which is an increasingly essential element in the Bavarian university landscape, the BaFID aims for target-group specific innovative formats, a trilingual homepage, and interaction through social media. Even immigrants without sufficient knowledge of German should have low-threshold access to the offerings. The main aims of the scholarly facility are inter-religious understanding, the harmonious coexistence among members of different belief communities, and the strengthening of social cohesion on a free democratic basis.

The good fit of the BaFID within the FAU was emphasized in the address of President Professor Dr. Joachim Hornegger, who took part in the ceremony along with Chancellor Christian Zens. “Whoever wishes to support the dialogue between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, must call for tolerance and encourage criticism. Those are the values that stood as inspiration at the founding of our university, and which remain the most important for the FAU,” said Professor Hornegger.

“With the Bavarian Research Center for Inter-religious Discourses, the FAU once again offers a greatly valuable contribution to research, whose significance goes far beyond science,” said Joachim Herrmann, Bavarian State Minister of the Interior for Sport and Integration, in his speech. Herrmann is also chairman of the BaFID Board of Trustees, an advisory body composed of representatives from politics, science, business, administration, culture and the media. “The new Center is extraordinarily important for our country and its people, since inter-religious understanding is today more significant than ever. It plays an essential role in ensuring the success of integration – and hence the peaceful cohabitation among the believers of different religions. This society-wide task is one that we take very seriously. We therefore support the new BaFID with around 860,000 Euros from the funds of the Ministry of Integration and the Interior,” Hermann explained.

Bernd Sibler, Bavarian State Minister for Science and Art, emphasized: “Convergence, understanding, and integration are built upon discourse and dialogue. If one knows and understands the religion of his counterpart, it is much easier for him to treat him with esteem, empathy, and respect. Here, the new Reseach Center can make a significant positive contribution. At the same time, it is the best example of the great importance for our society of the scholarly work of the humanities and cultural studies, and of the transfer of their knowledge to society.