Interfaith dialogue is about encounters
It is about how we can engage in dialogue and learn from and about one another.
All religions answer questions about fundamental issues, the world and people in their own way, but people from different religions nevertheless have a great deal in common. What we all share is the human experience of religion.
When people of different religious backgrounds meet, they engage in interfaith dialogue. Through interfaith dialogue, we can
- increase our understading of people with different religious and cultural backgrounds,
- lessen radicalisation and
- promote peace.
The mutual ground for different religions and opinions lies in advocating peace and other themes that benefit us all.
Positive freedom of religion means that society allows its members to disagree, lets everyone believe in their own way, and ensures that everyone can enjoy peace and mutual respect.
Religions and opinions do not always meet, but people do. And it is in everyone’s best interest that we do.
Living side by side in peace
How can proponents of religions that represent different world views life together in peace? This question is relevant to both politicians and ordinary people.
If people of different religious backgrounds or no faith are to live in peace, the following must be taken into consideration:
- Ensuring the smooth operation of everyday life
- Preventing violence
- Resolving conflicts
- Tolerating dissimilarity
- Protecting nature
- Caring for the disadvantaged
- Ensuring financial security
A greenhouse for radicalism?
All religions and religious opinions have features that, when taken out of context, can brutalise and radicalise that religion. In extracting these features, we completely ignore the human features of that religion – for every religion involves an ethical aspect, an ideal of doing good.
In world history, radicalisation has applied to both religious and secular traditions. But terrorism never springs from religion alone; for someone living in a war zone with no money, hope, paths to or preprequisites for a good life, joining a radical movement can seem like the only way out. From their perspective, radical movements seem to offer a community and an objective that is larger than life.
To prevent radicalisation, we must thus help the members of our society who are at risk of exclusion.
Everyday life tests our faith
The main arena of interfaith interaction is our everyday life. A friendly smile, a helping hand and a warm greeting help make life peaceful – regardless of the ethnicity, language or religion of our neighbours.
Getting to know the festivities of different traditions or even taking part in them also helps make our lives richer.
Doctrine and experience are open to discussion
Religious doctrine is open to discussion, both at the theological level and at the level of everyday experiences. Actual doctrinal dialogue is quite rare, however, and requires receptiveness and toleration of dissimilarities.
We can also compare our inner experiences of religiousness or irreligiousness. This requires that we are familiar with each other and willing to listen and give the other person space. Sharing experiences is possible even if we do not agree on or understand everything.
Human experience can be shared, but reality is always more than just our experience of it. World views are families of truth that verbalise our human experience in a way that includes faith in something greater than ourselves.