The Arab Working Group for Muslim-Christian Dialogue, established in 1995, is based on the belief that peaceful coexistence between Muslim and Christian people is achievable, viable and necessary to achieve equality in a diverse and civil society.
Each of its projects targets countries and communities in the Middle East where Christians and Muslims traditionally used to live together. The group’s central purpose is to achieve a society where, regardless of religious belief, people are entitled to freedom, justice and equality.
One of the key ways the group tries to achieve this is to give believers a forum to listen to each other, talk about challenges faced, and discuss and find solutions for peaceful co-existence. The organisation works at a national policy level as well as at a grassroots level in order to secure peace in Lebanon and the wider Middle East, a work much needed more and more, thus common religious ceremonies are organized to unite Muslims and Christians as the founders believe religions can be tools for peace building, not only bloody conflicts.
An example of their work at the grassroots level is their annual summer camp for 18-30 year olds. During these summer camps young people from different religions are given the chance to come together and engage in activities that are intended to build tolerance as they learn about each other’s culture. These camps have proven to be very successful with young people of different religions, establishing lasting friendships where before there was a degree of hostility.
Other activities include regular publications and conferences aimed at reducing prejudice and promoting dialogue. The group also focuses on continuous dialogue between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon, as well as working in Egypt where it addresses the deteriorating relationship between Muslims and Coptic Christians. It runs round tables and discussion in other Arab countries, such as Jordan. It believes that Christians and Muslims should together work to protect Jerusalem and other occupied Palestinian cities. All this is achieved in the aim of countering violent extremism and terrorism, and build peace via religious coexistence.
With the growing of religious fundamentalism in the region and the spread of ISIS, the group stresses the importance of cooporation among Muslims and Christians to fight extremism and terrorism, on grassroots levels as well in political and media speeches, and religious sermons. It also works to prevent more divisions among Islamic sects.
The organisation also believes in the importance of women’s empowerment and places an emphasis on the role of women in the dialogue between Christians and Muslims. To help facilitate the role of women in discussions, the organisation provides women with skills training designed to assist them to engage effectively in dialogues. The same applies to youth.