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Why We Need An Interfaith Observer

By Paul Chaffee


Interreligious demographics in neighborhoods around the world and on the internet have changed life for us all. This shift arrived without planning or foresight, raising dozens of questions and not offering easy answers. It can arrive with a jolt. When a son or daughter brings home a fiancé from a different religion, for example, brand new questions and feelings are fairly well guaranteed.

The great good news is that spontaneously, in small towns and large cities in hundreds of countries, imaginative new ways are being explored to transform the ‘stranger’ into a friend. Those stories will be a mainstay at TIO. We also want the Observer to provide a forum for interfaith-engaged leaders from all religious, spiritual, indigenous, and convictional traditions to address important issues. In particular, we will focus on interreligious bridge-building.

People of faith and practice cringe whenever religion and spirituality become tools in the hands of oppressors, and thereby party to violence. The most powerful tool at our disposal in transforming such abuse is friendship and collaboration based on shared values among newly acquainted people from diverse backgrounds. That powerful work is happening now, in Detroit and Islamabad, in Kampala and Jerusalem. Again, TIO intends to tell the stories and promote  the dialogue they evoke.

To date most of us don’t know much about each other. No one has a master list or a strategic plan for engendering vital, healthy interfaith culture. The plan at TIO is to begin identifying important interfaith activity locally and globally, to pass on links to exceptional websites, and to survey tried and true resources. In the process we hope to start developing connective tissue between the many, many constructive expressions of interfaith culture. We think the work is long overdue.

At the start, we acknowledge being weighted towards North America, with Christian and Jewish writers predominating. North American Christians and Jews have been accused of helping to start the interfaith movement. We hope so. That said, affirming diversity and becoming inclusive is a driving passion of everyone at TIO, a case we’ll make each month. You’ll see us already heading in that direction if you look at the “Who We Are” page on TIO’s website. This growing team of advisers and contributors is TIO’s braintrust, raising important issues, looking over our shoulder, and asking, “Who isn’t at the table yet?”

Thank you for hearing us out! We hope you join this conversation, find it useful, and share it with friends and acquaintances who share a vision of peace and justice for all.

TIO’s Editorial Board – Anna Arphan, Thomas Bonacci, Karen Boyett, Jan Chaffee, Paul Chaffee, Don Frew, Heng Sure, David Keller, Kay Lindahl, Deborah Moldow, Craig Phillips, Rebecca Tobias, Rachael Watcher, Terry Weller, and James Wiggins