Two Syrian participants from the Leaders for Interreligious Understanding (LIU) has made an one day initiative named “The Piano Initiative” which took place in Damascus and the countryside of the old beautiful capital. It had a fruitful outcome. 37 people participated and interacted in interreligious dialogue. We asked 24 year old Wassem Al Shakleh, who is one the facilitators, some questions.
What was the purpose of The Piano Initiative?
"The purpose of the Initiative was to make a space for building relationships between the leaders in the civil society from different religions and sects and make them exchange their impressions on the role of religion in peacemaking. We also discussed the connection between peace and religion".
Why did you use the word "piano" to name your Initiative? What does it stand for?
“We chose the word “Piano” because the keys may only have two colors - black and white, but when beautiful tunes and songs are heard from the same colorless piano, colors arise. Music is not confined to two colors. Just as the Levantine Area. Thus Levantine communities cannot exist without its components. We strive form our diversity and multicultural communities - this is our richness and heritage. To us the piano symbolizes this”.
Whom did you have in mind when you were planning the initiative, whom did you want to participate?
“We wanted to interact with civil society activists, artists, teachers, religiously committed people, leaders in generally and especially leaders of a project called Mojtmaaan, which means ‘community leaders’ ”.
How many turned up for your initiative and where did it take place?
“On the day of the initiative 37 people, both young men and women, participated. The Initiative took place in the area of Damascus but in several and different settings. We wanted to show the diversity of our cultural heritage by visiting several monasteries and mosques. For example were we at The St. Christophoros Monastery in Sednaya heritage area and took the time to visit the old areas of Damascus. The Monastery of Cherubim and the Umayyad Mosque in old Damascus were some of the stops on our tour as well. One of the surprising and really good opportunities were the time we spent together in the bus, because the setting made it possible for us to start a dialogue with each other in smaller groups or just with the person you were sitting next to. This kind of simple “meeting” and interaction had a big impact on the rest of the day”.
What was the outcome of the initiative?
“The outcome was a state of mutual understanding and a fruitful dialogue on the subject of the role of religions and civil peace between the participants.
Another kind of outcome was my own personal experience - I had a fruitful encounter of interreligious dialogue with my friends. Even though I have known my friends for years I actually discovered during the meeting that several of my friends who participated that I didn’t know their religious background or sect. During The Piano Initiative we got to exchange words about it and share our mutual affection”.
You are now a Leaders for Interreligious Understanding Alumni - What are your thoughts about the LIU program?
“It is an important program. I wish it would happen every three months for the participants to benefit even more and that there will be an advanced stage for the graduates and aluminis and even more follow-up with them”.
The Leaders for Interreligious Understanding (LIU) program
LIU Program aims to promote understanding of the role of interreligious dialogue in building peace, social cohesion and mutual understanding.
LIU builds the cognitive, behavioral and entrepreneurial capacities of young European and Arab leaders in managing religious diversity to develop their role as change agents for social cohesion and peace-building within and between societies. This is reached through a cross-cultural dialogue and integrative formation process, with a framework of partnership and common initiatives as well as a multi-faith and international network.
LIU is offered to young professionals in the fields of politics, media, religion, education and funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark in the framework of the DAPP.