Man is the enemy of that what he does not know

says an old Arabic wisdom.

This is precisely what the interdisciplinary research unit Key Concepts in Interreligious Discourses (KCID) [before Key Concepts in Interreligious Dialogue] seeks to counteract. The project offers an innovative approach for studying the development of the three interconnected monotheist religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam. With this aim in mind, KCID analyzes the history of ideas in each of these three religions, always taking into account the relationship of those ideas to one-another. KCID is thus intended to contribute to an intensive academic engagement with interreligious discourse in order to uncover mutually intelligible theoretical foundations and to increase understanding between the different religious communities in the here and now.

This aspiration is grounded in the insight that only detailed knowledge of the core ideas of each religion permits an objective and effective interfaith understanding. In order to set such a table, the project offers a unique roster of renowned international academic expertise. Furthermore, KCID carefully treats the main points of contention in the intense debates rocking contemporary interreligious studies, as it examines the three monotheistic religions not separately but in their historically conditioned mutual interaction and evolution. Our approach is based on the knowledge that developments in the history of religions never occur in an isolated fashion, but mainly develop through processes of mutual exchange.

In order to demonstrate this fact, experts in the fields of theology, religious studies, philosophy of religion and neighboring disciplines investigate the central concepts of the three monotheistic religions in their historical contexts. The results will be published and thus made available as a tool for the analysis of current and future developments of interreligious discourse.

The aim of the project is to investigate the foundations of religious thought and establish an “archaeology of religious knowledge” in order to make manifest certain commonalities and differences between the three religions through the comparative study of their conceptual history. Moreover, the project aims to highlight how each religion’s self-understanding can contribute to mutual understanding and peace between the three religious communities.

Through the exploration of core concepts germane to each of these three interrelated monotheistic religions, both the connections between, and the specific characteristics of, each of these religions will be discursively defined and made available to the general public. The communication of well-sourced knowledge and understanding strengthens the mutual acceptance of the cultural and religious Other.

The results obtained in KCID will be discussed and presented in three steps:

First, renowned researchers of various disciplines are to be invited to workshops several times a year to discuss central concepts.  Each workshop is dedicated to one key concept that will be discussed from the viewpoints of all three religions. The results of each workshop will be published in an English language series by Walter de Gruyter (Berlin/Boston). Additionally, important results will be made available online in Arabic, German, and English.

In this fashion, the project will fulfill its aspirations not only by reflecting on central religious ideas amongst a small group of academic specialists, but also by disseminating such ideas in a way that will appeal to the broader public. Academic research thus puts itself at the service of society in order to counteract powerful contemporary trends toward segregation based on ignorance, thereby strengthening mutual understanding and respect amongst religious communities.

Such a result is guaranteed via the methodology deployed by the project, namely the dialogic comparative investigation of the history of concepts. This is pursuant to our belief that one’s own religious point of view can be discovered in the Other. The project does not only offer new insights indispensable for mutual understanding between the three religious communities, but also transfers them into society at-large through events which address the broader public, a multi-lingual website, and through conference volumes which document and disseminate the results of each conference.

In the face of increasing religiously motivated violence across the globe and the stream of refugees into Europe (a majority of whom are Muslims), interreligious dialogue carries an almost existential significance for peaceful co-existence in both the West and the Middle East. The knowledge of religious traditions of other communities is a decisive factor for shaping and holding together ethnically and religiously pluralistic societies. A single glance into our respective societies, where widespread ignorance of other religions still prevails, demonstrates the relevance of knowledge developed in KCID for intercultural understanding.  Our current situation, in which the possibility of a peaceful co-existence between different cultures and religions is questioned by various ideological and political players, efforts to promote interreligious and intercultural understanding in a theologically and academically sound manner are needed more than ever. Well-founded insights into one’s own religion and into the religions of others offer the best foundation for transcending a baseline of mere tolerance in a pluralistic religious context and arriving at a level of mutual acceptance and respect.