by Melissa Liles, Chief Global Engagement Officer, AFS Intercultural Programs

Institutions of faith are critical but often under-recognized actors in the learning to live together movement. Many of our most fundamental values—especially around what’s considered “good,” “bad,”and other issues of morality—are deeply and unconsciously rooted in the spiritual beliefs of our families and communities. For billions of people around the world, these important lessons are first learned and discussed in temples, mosques, churches, and other places of worship.

Despite this, the voices of religious leaders have largely been absent in intercultural events and debates, and the perspectives of non-formal educators like AFS, who facilitate these discussions, are often not included in religious circles.

Colombo, Sri Lanka. Christchurch, New Zealand. In the last two months these places were added to our mental maps for a similar reason. Everywhere, everyday, at any given moment, we can point to an example that makes it tragically clear that we must make room at the intercultural and global citizenship education table for interfaith discussions.

AFS does not advocate religiosity or any one faith, but recognizes how crucial this dimension is to peace and productivity. Facilitating successful interfaith dialogues is a critical tool that supports of our mission to provide people with essential intercultural competencies for the modern world. With this in mind, AFS pledges to put more emphasis on the role of religion in intercultural learning as we gather at the AFS Global Conference (9-11 October in Montreal, Canada) to discuss the role of global competence in educating active global citizens.

This article was originally published (in a slightly modified format) in the AFS Connect magazine in 2015. Given the urgency of the topic, AFS believes it is now more important than ever to restart this conversation that will culminate at the AFS Global Conference.