Why is Interfaith Dialogue Important?

Marvin Lance Wiser, State of Formation, Feb.2, www.stateofformation.org/2011/02/why-is-interfaith-dialogue-important/

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Interfaith Movement, perhaps not. Either way, it should be important to you. Already in cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other large cities in the U.S., interfaith dialogue is occurring with such frequencies in universities, seminaries, and houses of worship that with quite certainty there will be mention of it in conversations at almost any lecture and brewing at any local coffee shop. Since 9/11 it has become almost blindingly apparent why interfaith dialogue is a critical component for the maintaining of civic and international stability.

One’s faith traditions should not be asked to be separated from a person as they enter the civic arena. We must no longer claim ignorance towards the religious other, and we must no longer continue in a practice of monopoly of truths, hegemony of God, and assimilation of those that fall into our periphery.

Interfaith dialogue does not exist for the sake of proselytizing others to one religion or one culture, nor does it exist to create a melting pot of syncretism where all religious identities are conflated into one. Not all religions are the same, there exist a myriad of differences, however there is dignity in difference, and this is a central tenet of the Interfaith movement.

Interfaith dialogue is an exercise of learning about those that are radically different from myself and my community and learning how to coexist with those persons that subscribe to different beliefs, customs, and worldviews other than my own. It also serves to strenghthen my own faith identity.

It’s one thing to describe my beliefs to another Christian that already comes pre-wired with a set of similar vocabulary and understanding of social constructs to interpret what I am saying within similar parameters to how I myself perceive it. However, it is an entirely different game when I have to explain my faith to someone outside of my faith. I have to use different vocabulary, I am pushed to own what I am saying, search and find different forms to articulate particular truths. I am stretched. I am also amazed to learn similar teachings of say, for example, creation in Islam or Judaism, and consequently in that interaction of learning my own resources are then amplified.

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