Since the turn of the 21st century, interfaith/interreligious initiatives are rapidly proliferating. Dialogue (broadly understood) is seen as a means to contribute to the social cohesion of our pluralizing societies. The general thrust is that dialogue happens in a safe space where people who orient around religion differently may meet as equals and exchange beliefs and practices.
While the researchers in this research group emphasize the importance of interfaith encounters in terms of a reciprocal encounter between equals who orient around religion differently, they also question if “the conditions under which the assumedly equal dialogue takes place, and the positions of the self and the other (asymmetrically) constructed in such encounters, are … insufficiently problematized” (Riitaoja & Dervin 2014, 77-78). This lack of problematization could result in the perpetuation of inequality. Unless interreligious initiatives are inspired by a strife for justice, their transformative potential may be diminished and the allegedly safe space may turn into a fake space.
To enhance the transformative potential of interreligious encounters, we seek to surface, explore, and question some of the normative assumptions about religion (what it is and should be), dialogue and diversity that are deeply ingrained in the sociopolitical imagination of Western liberal democracies and how these normative assumptions privilege some while they disadvantage others. We seek to deconstruct the common sense discourses about good/bad religion, the (return of the) problem of religion, migration and pluralization analyse how these discourses to this day are implicated in the production of unequal power relations (Fitzgerald 2015, 303).