Bridge Builders

- Centre for Dialogue Coffee

We are an association that builds and promotes the Danish tradition of difference and disagreement, whereby all feel equal and welcome to take part in critical, constructive dialogue.

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Denmark needs bridge builders

In recent years, we have been following the public debate with increasing concern. Not because it's hard and direct; It has to be. Direct and open debate can highlight differences thereby giving us insight into ourselves and each other. No, what worries us is distrust. The worship of enemy images.

Echo chambers and declining willingness to listen to each other. Denmark is a society in which trust in institutions and citizens across social and political divisions has traditionally been high. Therefore, we have had a good framework for dealing with our disagreements and differences. Despite this, many feel insecure. But we can live together, even if we are different. This is what dialogue coffee is all about. The goal is not that everyone should agree with each other But that we have to develop and sharpen our capacity to accommodate our disagreements and diversity.

That is why we now coming together to create Denmark's first Centre for Dialogue Coffee. You can join us. We need you.


Since 2010, Özlem has been contacting the people who have sent her hate emails. But she has also contacted people who want to enter into dialogue and become bridge builders. No matter who she drinks #dialoguecoffee with, the vast majority really want to understand each other.

But - and there is always a but - the first reaction she gets is almost always that it is “the other's fault” that one experiences problems in everyday life. The purpose of #dialoguecoffee is that all of us come to accept that we have personal responsibility for insisting on democratic conversation.

See also:



Danmark blev befriet for 75 år siden, men hvad indebærer frihedens og dens grænser i dag?

Kom til #FrihedsDebat - Tirsdag den 5. maj kl 19-20.

I år fejrer vi 75-året for Danmarks befrielse. Selvom der i dag stadig bliver færre, der kan huske besættelsestiden og befrielsesdagen, har vi et ansvar for bekæmpe og forebygge ekstremismen og fanatismen. Det er ikke nok at sige “aldrig mere” Frihed er ikke en selvfølge, men noget man skal kæmpe for at beholde hver eneste dag.

Vær med, når Özlem Cekic samtaler med journalist Flemming Rose og overrabbiner Bent Melchior
Det er gratis og du får en password, når du har tilmeldt dig her.

The Le Petit Award is used for the dialogue coffee tour

In February 2016, our chairwoman, Özlem Cekic, was awarded 'Le Petit-prisen' for her bridge building work. With the award came DKK 15,000. Later that same year, she received Ebbe Kløvedal Reich's Democracy Baton, which was awarded to her on the Danish Constitution Day for her initiatives connected with bridge building and dialogue coffee. The baton committed her to establishing a project that focuses on democracy.

Özlem decided to spend the money she had received from ‘Le Petit-prisen’ on a tour of Denmark in order to hold open dialogue events. On the tour, she encouraged people to take personal responsibility for promoting dialogue. She based the dialogue events on her own experiences, and she encouraged open debate and offered her view on how we can all reach out to people with whom we do not think we have anything in common.

Özlem visited all of Denmark’s five regions and also, along with some of the board members, the refugee camp in Næstved, where she gave 'dialogue spray' to Daniel Carlsen from the extreme right-wing party, Party of the Danes.


Aabenraa Bibliotekerne · DOKK1 · Københavns Biblioteker · Næstved Bibliotek og Borgerservice · Frederikshavn Bibliotek · Vartov

Hal Koch Award

In 2016, Özlem Cekic and the Bridge Builders Association were awarded the Hal Koch Award for democracy. We were chosen for the award because of our focus on encouraging dialogue between citizens with opposing views.

'It is a huge honour and recognition of our work. Hal Koch is the father of dialogue, and the one who insisted that democracy is more than just the voice of the politicians. He insisted that conversation between citizens is what forms the core of democracy. It’s an indescribable honour to be mentioned in connection with him,' said Özlem Cekic.

“The Hal Koch Award Committee had many candidates to consider, but it was still an easy choice”, said Rikke Forchhammer, who is a member of the committee and Director of Krogerup High School.

'The bridge-building initiative, which Özlem Cekic has established and worked so hard for, is in line with Hal Koch's thinking and work, so it was indeed an easy choice and the award committee was in consensus,' the director explained.

Dialogue coffee in Grimhøj Mosque

In the autumn of 2016, our chairwoman, Özlem Cekic, visited the Grimhøj Mosque together with former Chief Rabbi, Bent Melchior, and our deputy chairwoman, Julie Bossow.

'I visited the Grimhøj Mosque because I basically believe that all of us are responsible for building bridges and not digging ditches. I have criticised Grimhøj many times in the media, but I have never had a direct debate with them. Since the strength of our democracy is conversation, I have decided to visit them, as I believe that attitudes can be changed with dialogue and critical debate. It is important that we have the courage to talk to each other and not just about each other,' said Özlem Cekic.

As a result, Özlem and Bent had a conversation with the Grimhøj Mosque about good experiences Jews have had integrating into Danish society and what Muslims can learn from it. They also talked about how religious leaders have personal responsibility for clearly rejecting violence, and how important it is to comply with Danish laws and legislation.

I'm a #bridgebuilder

During the summer of 2017, we shared pictures of everyday bridge builders because we believe that everyone is a bridge builder in his or her own way. Everyone was invited to send a picture of themselves to us with a short text about why they were bridge builders. In addition, we met bridge builders on the streets at Folkemødet '17 (The People’s Political Festival 2017).

Conversation Salon

In 2018, we started our conversation salons. The first event was an introduction to the Bridge Builders Association and included a presentation by Özlem Cekic of her experience with building bridges between people. Afterwards, there was an opportunity to continue discussions in groups.

At the second conversation salon, we invited former Chief Rabbi, Bent Melchior, to have a conversation with Özlem Cekic. Rhetorician and member of the board, Simon Lund-Jensen, moderated the conversation and fielded questions from the audience.

We look forward to more conversation salons in 2019!

About Bridge Builders

Despite political and religious differences, we have established Bridge Builders - Centre for Dialogue Coffee. We hope that it will become a mass movement whereby the individual citizen takes personal responsibility for dialogue. The goal is not for everyone to agree, but for us to develop and sharpen our ability to accept our disagreements and differences. It is a huge challenge and it may be a painful process, but it represents the foundation of a lively sustainable democracy.

What will we focus our efforts on?:

  1. A bridge-building week in schools, where children and teachers are given tools to talk about differences and identify prejudices and enemy images.
  2. Establish dialogue with closed communities, where extremism and anti-democratic attitudes and norms thrive.
  3. We want to make conversation salons an institution in the local community
  4. We will organise spaces for dialogue coffee at workplaces, etc.


The aim is to promote dialogue between population groups and between individuals in Denmark. The Association’s vision is a society that builds on and promotes the Danish traditions of difference and disagreement, where everyone is equal and welcome to take part in critical constructive dialogue. With this in mind, the centre will implement initiatives to build bridges between different groups and between individuals.

Özlem Cekic

General Secretary for Bridge Builders – Centre for Dialogue Coffee

In Danish society, I feel that the distance between people is increasing. On the right as well as on the left wing and between religious groups, the tone of the debate is hard, and voices are raised. On social media, in particular, communication is abusive, and there is a tendency to label people as racists or traitors. I am concerned that we are losing our sense of direction and that we are turning our anger towards each other rather than towards those who are seriously threatening our democracy. Therefore, since 2008, I have helped and initiated several projects the purpose of which is to build bridges between people.

The Board

Bent Melchior

Chief Rabbi, Chairman of the Board

Jane Sandberg

Museum Curator, Vice Chairman of the Board

Flemming Rose

Journalist and Author

Simon Lund-Jensen

Rhetorician and Change Leader

Andreas Kamm

Honorary President of the UN Refugee Agency Denmark

Eva Smith

Professor of Law, Copenhagen University

Aydin Soei

Sociologist and author

Naveed Baig


The Initiative Group

Özlem Cekic

General Secretary for Bridge Builders

Emek Volkan Gürkan

Simon Lund-Jensen

Devrim Ülgü

Vivi Larsen

Signe Olsen

Julie Bossow

Join us!

As a member of the Bridge Builders, if you have the time and the enrgy, you are welcome to sign up as a volunteer.

Send us a message in the box on the right and let us know what you think you would be able to contribute as a volunteer:

  • Do you have any good ideas or suggestions for events or is there something else you can do? 
  • Otherwise, tell us about the relevant skills you have, and we will contact you when/if necessary.

As members of Bridge Builders and volunteers, we get in touch with our inner Bridge builder by insisting on democratic dialogue and building bridges in our daily lives.

We invite you and your friends to help us spread the message by liking us on our Facebook page, where you can also see upcoming events for members and volunteers.

We look forward to hearing from you!




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