15.03.2015 - UNESCO Office for Iraq

Director-General welcomes launch of UNESCO Chair on Development of Interreligious Dialogue Studies in the Islamic World at Kufa University, Iraq

At the inauguration of the UNESCO Chair at the University of Kufa © UNESCO Iraq Office 2015

The Director-General of UNESCO welcomes the establishment of the UNESCO Chair on Development of Interreligious Dialogue Studies in the Islamic World at Kufa University, Iraq.

“Peace and social cohesion require dynamic forms of exchange. The establishment of a Chair dedicated to dialogue among religions in the present time in Iraq sends a strong signal on the importance of academic research for the mutual enrichment of people, their religions and cultures”, says the Director-General.

“This is particularly important as intolerance, sectarianism and violent extremism fuel cultural cleansing. We must respond to this extremely critical situation in all our fields of competence and by celebrating the rich mosaic of diversity and dialogue that Iraq has long embodied” she adds.

Kufa University is the first Iraqi university to be granted a UNESCO Chair. It was inaugurated on 14 March 2015 during a ceremony held at the University in Najaf.

The Chair will address the many pressing challenges faced by Islamic societies today whilst providing insights on the importance of producing alternative knowledge and narratives as bases for mutual understanding, dialogue and cohesion within multicultural societies.

The Chair will also engage in the production of multidisciplinary academic knowledge on aspects of Sunni-Shia relations and will contribute to original research in the study of non- Muslims in Muslim-majority societies.

The Chair will develop educational initiatives and engage with political and religious actors to foster closer understanding and reconciliation between different religious communities to aid in the rebuilding of social cohesion as well as developing a platform where professors, civil society actors and students from Iraq, the region and beyond can meet and work together.

The creation of the Chair follows up on the wider efforts by UNESCO and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MoHESR) since 2012 to implement the ongoing project ‘Rehabilitation of Iraq’s Higher Education System’, funded by the Education Above All Foundation.

The UNESCO Chair at Kufa University joins a network of 659 UNESCO Chairs and 47 UNITWIN Networks established within the framework of the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme which was launched by UNESCO in 1992.

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