Religious actors and bodies from within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark have increasingly adopted interreligious dialogue as an instrument dealing with changes of the religious landscape due to immigration, religious radicalisation and secularisation. Without any formal body representing the entire church, interreligious dialogue emerges from a variety of initiatives. Whereas these can be divided between religious leaders’ versus people-to-people’s dialogue, I will argue that both models are characterised by being decentralised and culturalised while dealing with the simultaneous subjectivity and representation of the individual believer.
Empirical research on the practice of interreligious dialogue delivers inspiring results for a practical-theological reflection. The contribution thus discusses the question of what theological and social science research can learn from each other. The author presents four exemplary theses on the Catholic understanding of the nature, aims and methods of interreligious dialogue, and puts them into a mutual dialogue with the empirical results of this study. The results demonstrate that interreligious dialogue only exists within different social and political contexts that should be recognised theologically as “incarnated” forms of dialogue. The diverse social and political functions of interreligious dialogue can be interpreted as dimensions of the evangelizing mission of the Church. In turn, social science research on interreligious dialogue should take “inside” dimensions into academic consideration such as aspects of theological self-understanding, the question of truth or the missionary dimension of interreligious dialogue.
From the various contingent cases of interreligious dialogue (IRD) across European countries presented at the conference, a systematic cross-regional comparison and system-theory informed analysis is suggested from a cultural study of religion understanding. Along the coordinates of system integration, social integration and cosmopolitanism (as developed in political sciences by U. Beck, E. Grande, N. Sznaider) an interpretation of the specific way of governance is proposed and delineated from other explanations like IRD as part of a neoliberal regime or a type of secularism. The paper concludes how IRD initiatives, besides other effects, form cosmopolitan values of open coordination, risk management, and mutual recognition and by this contribute to their institutionalization. Cosmopolitanism is favoured as policy paradigm for religious diversity as it allows for multi-level communication in-between global localities, changes perspectives with marginalized and draws conclusions from that for regulating diversity without regulating individuals.
On the basis of the articles presented in the thematic issue of the ‘Journal of Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Societies (JRAT)’, this article reflects upon the structures of Interreligious Dialogue (IRD) in Europe. On the one hand, it proposes to have a closer look at regional patterns of religions in public space, at sub-national patterns of IRD-activities as well as different social forms of IRD-activities. On the other hand, it makes the point that research has to critically re-assess concepts such as the Dialogue-Movement as well as religious plurality for the study of IRD-activities.