The ‘Dialogue from a Christian Origin’ with other religions and worldviews belongs, along with activities in the field of Christian theology, to the key projects of the Eugen Biser Foundation, which was founded ten years ago.
During its search for appropriate partners for a theological dialogue on a scholarly basis, in 2005 the Eugen Biser Foundation was offered the opportunity to carry out symposia with members of the Islamic-Theological Faculty of Ankara University (Ankara Üniversitesi İlâhiyat Fakültesi). Held alternately in Ankara and in Munich, the colloquia were meant to enable the participants to learn about basic positions of Christian and Muslim identity. As the Muslim scholars spoke Turkish and their Christian counterparts German, even the highly qualified translators who served as intermediaries at the meetings had difficulty performing their jobs. Both sides lacked relevant reference works. Thus it was time to fill the gap by establishing a dictionary explaining the religious, philosophical, and sociological terms used in the interreligious and intercultural dialogue. The Eugen Biser Foundation was fortunate to gain the support of the Islamic-Theological Faculty of Ankara University, which became a distinguished and competent partner, and to work with the former head of its department, Prof. Dr. Mualla Selçuk, as well as the former deputy head of its department, Prof. Dr. Halis Albayrak, both of them highly motivated co-publishers of the Dictionary. Based on this arrangement, the Eugen Biser Foundation was well prepared to take the initiative and responsibility for such an ambitious project. As it turned out, the task involved a considerable effort, together with pioneering work at the highest level.
The project is based on the following concept:
- The Dictionary should be manageable in scope. By agreement, the list of terms was restricted to around 320 basic terms each for Christianity and Islam. Where possible, the entries were also to include intercultural as well as sociological aspects of great relevance. Authors were to refrain from adding comments of the kind usually offered by theologians. The aim was to provide an independent description of both religions, the Christian as well as the Islamic.
- The Islamic articles were written exclusively by Islamic scholars and the Christian articles exclusively by Christian scholars, in Turkish and German, respectively. Translating the articles into the respective other language placed very high demands on the translators.The authors explain the terms according to their respective theological and cultural convictions, applying their individual academic methods. They accept academic responsibility for their own articles.
- The entire Dictionary is being published in a German and a Turkish edition, for each country, Germany and Turkey. Simultaneous presentation of both editions allows Muslims of Turkish origin living in Germany to refer to the Turkish edition of the Dictionary if need be.
- There are plans to have the Dictionary translated into other languages.
All efforts to complete the Dictionary would have been in vain not for project sponsorship by private and governmental institutions. We wish to extend our sincere gratitude to the European Integration Fund, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), the German Bundestag, the Robert Bosch Foundation, the Koç Foundation of Istanbul, and numerous individual private donators and friends of the Eugen Biser Foundation.
Munich, summer 2013
Dr. Heiner Köster, Managing Member of the Board of Trustees of the Eugen Biser Foundation