The Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue is currently hosting its ninth annual conference on interfaith dialogue from October 24-26. The only major interfaith dialogue event in the region, the conference is a state-sponsored event that brings together prominent scholars, practitioners, government officials, and interested publics, and aims to improve understanding and cooperation between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

Participants in attendance this year come from 55 countries. Panelists include the Rev. Jesse Jackson; Dr. Nasr Farid Wasel; former Grand Mufti of Egypt; Dr. Mustafa Ceric, Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina; Jorge Sampaio, former president of Portugal; Rabbi Herschel Gluck from the Muslim-Jewish forum in the UK; Catholic Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool; Rabbi Henry Sobel of Brazil; Iranian Arminian Bishop Sebouh Sarkissian; Safaa Zarzour from the Islamic Society of North America; and several noteworthy others.

This year’s theme is on fostering a new relationship between social media and inter-religious dialogue. In addition to the panel sessions, the conference includes workshops on how to harness social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter for the practical work of interfaith dialogue.

The conference also includes a session in collaboration with the Islamic World Academy of Sciences on the theme of Science and Religion, addressing topics in Islamic history, spirituality, philosophy of science, and bioethics.

While the event attempts to stay focused on the ways in which different religious traditions can appropriate new technologies to better foster interfaith understanding, political questions (notably, frustrations about the situation in Palestine) remain perennial concerns that inevitably erupt during Q&A sessions. The challenge that some participants have posed is whether such dialogue, held so remotely from key centers of political power and decision-making, does any practical good at all. Still, the fact that such an event is being held in Doha, as a state-led initiative, and despite some opposition from prominent clerics, is worth better understanding.

Read more details on the event, including text of some  speeches here.