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Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Henrik Lindberg, Hansen

BA/MA Theology, University of Aarhus, Denmark


Henrik Hansen
Henrik Lindberg, Hansen
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Thesis title:
The Diversity of Muslim - Christian Dialogue: An Analysis of the Relation between Social and Religious Affiliation and its Impact on Dialogue in Egypt
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PhD Research

The construct of Egyptian society is described involving a historical description of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Muslim university and religious Institution, the Azhar, and The Muslim Brotherhood, and how these three pillars of religious belonging have partaken in society and politics. This is followed by a description of Egyptian society as based on clientelism, which later is linked to some of the Egyptian dialogue initiatives.
Then Muslim – Christian relations are described focusing on discrimination and sectarian incidents to describe what the dialogue initiatives are up against. This is followed by an analysis of Muslim – Christian dialogue endeavours. Some dialogue initiatives set out to convert others; others are sustaining the clientelist structures of society when leaders represent each their religious groups towards the regime; people from the periphery of the Coptic Church and the Muslim Brotherhood define dialogue as a protest against the settled political structure discriminating against Christians; Christian minority churches use dialogue to create social space in their local settings; and different youth groups protest established society and move towards a more personal approach to religious dialogue in the meeting with the religious “other”.
Dialogue is understood as a tool for the negotiation and navigation of intergroup relations within and between groups having religion as a significant delimiter. The variables found to be important to research in dialogue are: (i) The socio-political structuring of society into social categories; (ii) the social positioning of individuals: people react to other people based on how the person understands him- or herself as part of a social group compared to the social groups of other people; and how these influence (iii) emotional patterns, and (iv) cognitive structures ordering the access to the world and divinity: people group together because they are social beings, who need to belong to a group to feel at peace with themselves and to feel that they have a place in the world. These groups help define how other groups are understood and what feelings they provoke based on the relation between the groups.
The PhD thesis then takes the practice of dialogue as a social endeavour as its starting point. It is assumed that dialogue differs between regions and countries depending on the role of religion in society. These differences are of academic interest to further understand what dialogue is, but it is also of practical interest as it can help understanding some of the differences in dialogue currently producing confusion.