Religious representatives from eleven countries came to DW Akademie in Bonn in late 2022 for additional training on how to spread messages of peace.
"For me, meeting people from other faiths used to feel like meeting extraterrestrials," admitted Emina Frljak, a Bosnian Muslim who supports interfaith dialogue. Although she was initially prejudiced herself, she has since seen many religious leaders spread hate speech, which is then repeated by believers in churches, mosques and on social media. The result, she said, is often violence – both on and offline.
She is now committed to interfaith peace work, having recognized the importance of an exchange between different religions. This is crucial, she said, especially in countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina where many ethnicities and religions exist. Frljak is a Program Coordinator for Youth for Peace, an organization that promotes and interreligious exchange and where she organizes workshops against hate speech.
Frljak and the ten other religious leaders who took part in the three-day DW Akademie media training program are dedicated to communicating for peace and taking a stand against hate speech. As part of the course, they looked at how to organize practical workshops, give motivating feedback, and deal with difficult members of their religious communities.
The program, explained Daniela Wiesler-Schnalke, Head of DW Akademie’s Communication Consultancy and Training department, is to train religious leaders so that they can then teach others how to deal constructively and professionally with the media and to also support them in communicating their messages of peace to the public.
In her welcoming speech, Natascha Schwanke, Director of Media Development, emphasized how important communication is, especially in times of crisis. "Promoting constructive dialogue is a priority at DW Akademie, to enable an exchange between conflicting parties and to focus on togetherness," Schwanke said.
This was the fifth time that the course was held in 2022 and which was funded by the German Foreign Office. Participants came from eleven different countries and were representatives of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and the Bahá`í faith. All had taken part in a previous course.
The workshop was shaped by dialogue, said Frljak. “We all worked together, came out of our bubbles and left with new and different perspectives,” she pointed out. She now aims to organize more interfaith communication workshops in her own country. Especially those who were born in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the war, she stressed, need help in overcoming the hatred still felt by preceding generations. Through her encounters with others, she added, she, too, has been able to put aside her prejudices.