“O people! Behold, we have created you from a male and a female and have made you into nations and tribes so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.” (Qur’an 49:13)
“‘O people of the scripture! (Jews and Christians) come to common terms As between us and you that we worship none but God and that we associate nothing in worship with Him, and that none of us shall take others as Lords beside God (Allah). Then, if they turn away, say: Bear witness that we are Muslims (those who have surrendered to God).” (Qur’an;3:64).
The terms interfaith or interfaith dialogue refer to cooperative and positive interaction between people of different religious traditions (ie. “faiths”) and spiritual or humanistic beliefs, at both the individual and institutional level with the aim of deriving a common ground in belief through a concentration on similarities between faiths, understanding of values, and commitment to the world.[Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interfaith]
It is distinct from syncretism or alternative religion, in that dialogue often involves promoting understanding between different religions to increase acceptance of others, rather than to synthesize new beliefs. There is a view that the history of religion shows conflict has been more the state of affairs than dialogue.
Throughout the world there are local, regional and international interfaith initiatives; many are formally or informally linked and constitute larger networks or federations. The often quoted”There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions. There will be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions” was formulated by Dr Hans Küng, a Professor of Ecumenical Theology and President of the Foundation for a Global Ethic.
The history of interfaith dialogue is as ancient as the religions since men and women when not at war with their neighbours have always made an effort to understand them (not least because understanding is a strategy for defence, but also because for as long as there is dialogue wars are delayed). History records many examples of interfaith initiatives and dialogue throughout the ages.
Another example of historical coexistence between people of different faiths has been in the Balkansunder the administration of the Ottoman Turks from 15th to 19th centuries. Catholic and Orthodox Christians as well as Muslims, Jews and Sufis have dwelled in harmony for hundreds of years in this region (despite some small incidents). Today the region is shaky and very sensitive. Especially following the dissolution of former Yugoslavia, ethnic and religious wars have been waged, massacresand other horrors have been recorded in the last decade in 1990’s. The UN peacekeeping forces are in the region today to ensure the safety of the general population against attacks.
January 2009, at Gujarat’s Mahuva, the Dalai Lama inaugurated an interfaith “World Religions-Dialogue and Symphony” conference convened by Hindu preacher Morari Bapu from January 6 to 11th 2009. This conference explore « ways and means to deal with the discord among major religions », according to Morari Bapu. Participants include Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile on Buddhism, Diwan Saiyad Zainul Abedin Ali Sahib (Ajmer Sharif) on Islam, Dr. Prabalkant Dutt on non-Catholic Christianity, Swami Jayendra Saraswathi on Hinduism and Dastur Dr. Peshtan Hormazadiar Mirza on Zoroastrian.,
July 2009, Vancouver School of Theology opened Iona Pacific: Inter-Reigious Centre for Social Action, Research, and Contemplative Practice under the leadership of Principal and Dean, Dr. Wendy Fletcher, and Director, Rabbi Dr. Robert Daum.
Interfaith and different religions
Islam is the only religion which emphasie the interfaith dialogue through finding a common ground mentioned in the Qur’an, the holy scripture. It grants sepcial status the Jews and Christians by calling them as ‘People of Scripture’.
Islam has long encouraged Interfaith dialogue and action, with historical examples coming from Muslim Spain, Mughal India, and even starting as far back as Prophet Muhammad‘s (peace be upon him) time, where people of the Abrahamic Faiths lived in harmony.
Many traditional and religious texts and customs of the faith have encouraged this, including specific verses in the Quran, such as:
“O people! Behold, we have created you from a male and a female and have made you into nations and tribes so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.” [Qur’an 49:13]
“‘O people of the scripture! (Jews and Chritians) come to common terms As between us and you that we worship none but God and that we associate nothing in worship with Him, and that none of us shall take others as Lords beside God (Allah). Then, if they turn away, say: Bear witness that we are Muslims (those who have surrendered to God).” (Qur’an;3:64).
In recent times, Muslim theologians have advocated inter-faith dialogue on a large scale, something which is new in a political sense. The declaration A Common Word of 2007 was a public first in Christian-Islam relations, trying to work out a moral common ground on many social issues.
Relations between Muslims and Jews remained cordial in the long history, they enjoyed excellent status in Muslim Spain, however in present era they are quite strained, notably due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are inter-Muslim issues in between Sunnis and Shiites that are very much unresolved in the Middle East. Also, relations between Muslims and Hindus in India and Pakistan could theoretically be much better if interfaith efforts were more successful.
Traditional Christian doctrine is Christocentric, meaning that Christ is held to be the sole full and true revelation of the will of God for humanity. In a Christocentric view, the elements of truth in other religions are understood in relation to the fullness of truth found in Christ. God is nevertheless understood to be free of human constructions. Therefore, God Holy Spirit is understood as the power who guides non-Christians in their search for truth, which is held to be a search for the mind of Christ, even if “anonymously,” in the phrase of Catholic theologian Karl Rahner. For those who support this view, ananonymous Christian belongs to Christ now and forever and leads a life fit for Jesus’ commandment to love, even though she never explicitly understands the meaning of her life in Christian terms.
While the conciliar document Nostra Aetate has fostered widespread dialogue, the declaration Dominus Iesus nevertheless reaffirms the centrality of the person of Jesus Christ in the spiritual and cultural identity of Christians, rejecting various forms of syncretism.
Pope John Paul II was a major advocate of interfaith dialogue, promoting meetings in Assisi in the 1980s. Pope Benedict XVI has taken a more moderate and cautious approach, stressing the need for intercultural dialogue, but reasserting Christian theological identity in the revelation of Jesus of Nazareth in a book published with Marcello Pera in 2004.
For traditional Christian doctrine, the value of inter-religious dialogue is confined to acts of love and understanding toward others either as anonymous Christians or as potential converts.
In mainline liberal Protestant traditions, however, as well as in the emerging church, these doctrinal constraints have largely been cast off. Many theologians, pastors, and lay people from these traditions do not hold to uniquely Christocentric understandings of how God was in Christ. They engage deeply in interfaith dialogue as learners, not converters, and desire to celebrate as fully as possible the many paths to God.
Much focus in Christian interfaith dialogue has been put on Christian-Jewish reconciliation. Reconciliation has been successful on many levels, but has been somewhat complicated by the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East, where a significant minority of Arabs are Christian.
Reform Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism and Conservative Judaism encourage interfaith dialogue. Interfaith dialogue is a controversial issue within the Orthodox Jewish community. Some Orthodox Jews refuse to participate in interfaith dialogues because they believe that Judaism’s prohibition of proselytism, combined with other religions’ “missionary zeal”, creates an unbalanced power dynamic such that the “dialogue” effectively becomes a monologue. However, some Modern Orthodox Jews participate in interfaith dialogue.
Zoroastrianism has long encouraged interfaith, all the way from Cyrus the Great‘s speech in Babylon, which permitted the population to keep following their own religion and keep speaking their own language. Cyrus did not enforce the state religion unto the people. As well, Cyrus freed all the Jewish slaves from Babylon, which earned him a place in the Jewish scriptures. Zoroastrians believe that all religions are equal, and that their religion is not superior to other religions. They believed that the Prophet Zoroaster implied the religion unto them, and did not not convert each of them. Therefore, they do not even accept converts into their religion. All adherents must be born into the religion.
The Institute of Interfaith Dialog has been very active in the different states of the US. With about 15 branches in several states, including Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi and Kansas, the IID organizes interfaith dinners, inter-cultural trips, conferences and panel discussions.