Kosovo Interfaith Conference brings faith and community leaders from around the world together to agree principles to build mutual understandingPeja, Monday 27 May 2013 - Yesterday, concluded the final day of the Interfaith Conference taking place in Peja from 24-26 May 2013. Some nearly 200 participants from around the region and the world have taken part in discussions on how to enhance dialogue and understanding between religious communities. This conference has been recognised as an important landmark for the global interfaith community - with participants from countries as far and wide as the UK, the US, Georgia, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Opening the proceedings, Kosovo Deputy Foreign Minister Petrit Selimi thanked the participants for coming to Kosovo and expressed his hope that the outcome of this important conference would be captured in the "Peja Principles", a set of commitments capturing discussions from the conference.
A lively panel discussion on the issue of "old media, social media and interfaith relations" was chaired by Noori Bibi, director of the organisation Young Muslim Voices in the UK. It considered how developments in media and technology can assist in helpful dialogue, and how it can also be a barrier when used by extremists and religious fundamentalists.
Panelists included Rabbi Joshua Stanton, Associate Director of the Center for Global Judaism at Hebrew College in the US, who said: "Social media is here to stay, the question in my mind is what we do?" He gave examples of how he has used social media effectively in his own work to create online communities.
Other panelists included Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, a columnist at the widely read website Huffington Post; Rizwan Hussein, founder of UK organisation working with Pakistani youth Jawaab, Omer Karabeg, Editor of Radio Free Europe, with headquarters in Prague; and Dr Anna Di Lellio, who currently teaches at the New School in New York City.
Themes raised during the discussion included how real-time information overload can distort accuracy and the role of individuals; there were concerns that some internet forums have become a platform for disinformation and hate speech, as individuals were able to hide behind their computer screens. However, the power of social media means that it is important for religious and community leaders to engage to ensure that positive discussion is also present online.
Following lunchtime speeches from Imam Sabri Bajgora of the Kosovo Islamic Community and Bishop Andrej of the Serbian Orthodox Church, participants went on a tour of Peja. They visited historic and religious sites including the Peja Ethnological Museum, the Old Bazaar, Bajrakli Mosque and the Pec Patriachate.
Many of the international participants left Kosovo today, though a number are planning to travel further around Kosovo and the Balkans region.
For further information, please visit the Interfaith Kosovo website on http://interfaithkosovo.org/ or follow @InterfaithRKS on twitter using #Interfaith #Kosovo or #interfaithkosovo.