UNESCO launched the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme in 1991 as an international action plan for academic solidarity to strengthen inter-university co-operation with particular emphasis on support to higher education in the developing countries.
The UNITWIN network on Interreligious studies
UNESCO Chair on Comparative Studies of Spiritual Traditions, their Specific Cultures and Interreligious Dialogue was initiated on March 14, 2001 in St.Petersburg, Russia, basing primarily on the facilities of the St.Petersburg Branch of the Russian Institute for Cultural Research, Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. Its main objectives were defined by its founding chairperson, Dr.Liubava Moreva, acting in close contact with the UNESCO authorities as elaborating, improving and/or promoting:
Initially five prominent researchers were appointed as professors of the UNESCO chair in St.Petersburg (S. S.Khoruzhy, E. P. Ostrovskaya, D .L. Spivak, R. V .Svetlov, and E .A .Torchinov), representing respectively following research realms: Russian Orthodox Christianity and its religious philosophy, Indian religions and religious philosophies, religious and transpersonal psychology, classical (Graeco-Roman) religious philosophy and literature, and the Buddhist tradition. This list was expanded in the course of the following years, to meet new prospects and challenges. Thus an affiliation of our chair, dedicated to study of the spiritual traditions of Russian culture, was opened in May, 2003, under the guidance of professor D. A. Ivashintsov, to provide deeper insight into basic spiritual trends of the Russian-speaking world, both in Russia and abroad. Institute of foreign associate members was introduced in 2004, which was initially a pragmatic step, taken to support in organizational terms manifold activities of Ms. S.Burn (USA).
There was a grand meeting on the occasion of opening the renewed Chair on the 31st of May, 2007. The following Honoured Professors have been at the Chair since then: O. N. Astafieva, A. L. Vassoyevich, V. S. Zhidkov, S. N. Ikonnikova, L. M. Mosolova, N. L. Muskhelishvili, R. G. Piotrowski, K. E. Razlogov, E. A. Rezvan. Deputy head of the Chair is A. V. Venkova, science secretary is E. V. Lunyaev, coordinators are E. L. Chudnovskaya and I. B. Sokolova.
Regarding our start as fairly prompt and effective, we feel it is timely to double our efforts, in order to meet challenges of the modern civilization, as well as to use possibilities created by its development. The former consist in necessity to trace back, define and present to both academic and public attention conflicts and crises rooted in the spiritual and religious realms, especially at the background of struggle against global terrorism, and to elaborate intellectual, educational, and organizational means and strategies for their appeasement and harmonization – or, as we prefer to put it, for practicing the art of optimal behaviour in extreme conditions. The latter consist primarily in widening the scope of our works, recurring to help of modern information technologies, as well as deepening them, mostly on the basis of transdisciplinary research and discourse.
The same year D. L. Spivak stepped into the position of chairperson.
Since 2006, the Chair has been a part of a leading UNESCO project — the UNESCO UNITWIN network on interreligious dialogue for intercultural understanding. The Chair was the only UNESCO chair in the Russian Federation chosen to be a member of the new network. D. L. Spivak signed the founding article at the meeting in Paris in the presence of Director-General of UNESCO.
In 2007, the Chair initiated The First International Meeting of the chairs in the UNESCO UNITWIN network for interreligious dialogue. The meeting occurred in Moscow, 15 September 2007, at the Russian Academy of Public Administration, under the auspices of the President of the Russian Federation.
In 2008, the Chair joined the web-project of the UNESCO UNITWIN network for interreligious communication, the “I-dialogue” for the UNESCO chair community.
In 2009, the chair participated in the Second International Meeting of the UNESCO UNITWIN chair network for interreligious communication, in Eugene, Oregon, USA, 8–12 May 2009. D. L. Spivak was elected to the Executive Committee of the network. On 21 May 2009, Associate Professors N.A.Kochelyaeva and E. Yu. Endoltseva were elected to the Chair staff.
The next International Meeting of the UNESCO UNITWIN network for interreligious communication will be timed to coincide with the International Day of Cultural Diversity in 2011.
UNESCO Chair in Comparative Religious Studies (592), established in 2002 at Saint-Joseph University, (Lebanon)
PARTNERSHIPSCollege of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oregon. Oregon Humanities Center
Center Leo Apostel (CLEA), Brussels Free University
Center for XX Century Studies, Milwaukee University, Milwaukee
European Society for Study of Science and Theology (ESSSAT) - Lund university, Department of Theology and Religious Studies
The Elijah School for the Study of the Wisdom of the World Religions