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Our story

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Centre for Coexistence - Islamic-Christian Study Centre (IKS) was established in 1996 in the very heart of Copenhagen - in a quarter where people of different cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds live and work together - and with inspiration from the centre in Birmingham. IKS was and, as far as I know, still is unique in the world in the sense that it was established jointly by Muslims and Christians (and by almost an equal number of Christian and Muslim organizations), that the board consists of an equal number of Muslims and Christians who cooperate in an atmosphere of friendship and mutual respect. Furthermore, the centre was and is totally independent from religious and political institutions.

Most centres working with Christian-Muslim relationships are started either by Christians or by Muslims. It was normally the majority, in Europe often the Christians (as the host) inviting a minority, the Muslims into their home, the church. This was a very important shift in the way of thinking and organizing interreligious dialogue, but also a very daring act which created sometimes very unpleasant critiques from right-wing political parties and from certain Islamophobic circles, and also from within the church.

Due to the mutual ownership of IKS, the centre enjoyed and enjoys great recognition in the majority of both the Christian and Muslim communities. However, it was especially outside the country that people really have appreciated the existence of the centre and the fact that it was not only an organization but a stationary centre with premises. IKS has played a key role in setting up dialogue initiatives elsewhere in the country in the form of donating advice and contacts locally. The centre has also ensured that (for the first time) imams were employed in institutional contexts, like hospitals and prisons. The imams have ever since come from our centre thus avoiding extreme right-wing intervention.

The centre quickly became a meeting place for people with different ethnic and religious backgrounds attending dialogue groups, training courses, debate meetings or just hanging around talking to each other. It became a kind of refuge, where Muslims and Christians could feel confident and respected and therefore free to openly engage and express themselves. First of all, by studying together, being in dialogue groups together, discussing with each other, they came to know each other, to become friends.

For many years there was a need for teaching, debates about Islam and the relationship between Islam and Christianity in larger and smaller groups. Just for Christians and Muslims to see each other face to face was important. Since 2003 the centre has worked mainly with projects. That means we moved from dialogue to diapraxis, i.e., working together for the common good instead of just talking together/discussing (I started using the term diapraxis in 1988). This was the reason why the centre added the name Centre for Co-existence to its initial name in in order to signify a renewal and emphasize that this is a work that is not just for the benefit of the consciously religious, but for the coexistence of our entire society. Interreligious or cross-cultural dialogue was to involve wider circles and make activities more goal- and practice-oriented. Joint efforts are needed to ensure the cohesion and coexistence in society.

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