Potentials and Limits of Inter-Faith Dialogue for Compliance with the Global Norm of Religious Freedom

Headed by:
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Helmut Breitmeier
Project Status:
Supported by:


The global norm of freedom of religion or belief as a basic human right is at stake. From a cross-national perspective, compliance with the norm is varying: While in some states religious freedom is guaranteed and protected, violations of the norm occur – in different intensity – in liberal democracies and authoritarian states alike. They cover the range of discrimination, limitations, harassment, persecution and repression. This research project seeks to identify possible mechanisms to enhance compliance with the global norm of religious freedom. The project’s guiding research question is, whether transnational inter-faith dialogue in form of a discourse between representatives of Christianity and Islam can serve as a new mechanism to enhance compliance with the norm. With this research design the project focuses on new ways to enhance compliance with the norm since traditional compliance mechanisms (coercion, capacity-building, adjudication, shaming, and learning) fail to adequately contribute to norm compliance. The project intends to analyze qualitatively how inter-faith dialogues shape globally, which effects they cause and if these effects can contribute to the fulfillment and compliance of religious freedom. In terms of causality, two possible causal chains are assumed: on an actor-related level transnational inter-faith dialogue could enter national discourse via norm-entrepreneurs (and lead to the establishment of recognition for the religious other among the dialogue participants); on an institutional level institutional effects could occur beyond the actor-related level via the creation of normative reference points (on which non-dialogue-participants could refer to in the domestic public sphere). The project seeks to analyze these assumptions qualitatively by a selection of transnational inter-faith dialogue initiatives as well as country case studies, paying special attention to Christian-Muslim-relations.