The unspoken sacred. The religious dimension of intercultural dialogue

Bari, March 31st - April 2nd, 2017

Why is sacre such a difficult topic to address in intercultural encounters, both between believers of different faiths and between believers and agnostics or atheists?

One reason has to do with respect and the fear of hurting other people’s sensitivity. We tend to avoid any reference to the religious dimension of life because we feel that we tread on dangerous ground, where we risk to step on other people’s feelings and to touch what is untouchable for many. Nonetheless this avoidance leads into dark corners, where misunderstandings, distortions, caricature and even hostility may arise: thus intercultural encounters miss the opportunity of opening a fuller trans-cultural dialogue and deeper mutual understanding.

The Conference focused on religious culture, leaving aside any discussion on inter-religious dialogue. There were academics and “experts in religions” (historians, sociologists, anthropologists and psychologists), but not religious leaders or clergy of any faith. In Intercultura’s tradition, there were also mediators and volunteers working with multi-cultural and multi-religious situations.  

The Intercultura Foundation has always privileged research and projects involving youth and education. In this conference it was imperative to clearly separate “doctrine” from “religious culture” and its influence on history, art, literature. Discussions on doctrine belong to religious institutions and their clergy. Religious culture should belong to all.

The current silence does not convey respect and understanding. From this Conference we expected some enlightenment and some suggestions on how to turn “the unspoken sacred” into a dialogical one.


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Proceedings are available on this page.