By Paul Chaffee
Without shared service, interfaith dialogue achieves very little. This interfaith commonplace is good advice for anyone committed to a healthy interfaith future. Dozens of TIO articles this past year draw their power from collaborative efforts among those who were strangers and now active in a larger family.
But the “achieves very little” notion vastly underrates the import of our dialogue with members of ‘the other.’ Interfaith communication is strewn with complexities and difficulties. These cannot be ignored if we value our relationships and hope to strengthen them as we consider shared values and the need to help heal a broken world, a goal shared by most traditions.
We didn’t have a ‘theme’ for this month’s TIO, but wrestling with dialogue’s complexities would fit the bill. Ruth Sharone takes on the rigors of dialogue when you radically disagree with members of your own tradition. Rachael Watcher’s multicultural lessons learned while translating from one language to another are illuminating. Rita Gross talks about maintaining respect as the foundation of interfaith community, what that requires and doesn’t require. And Sarah Bassin talks about overcoming the difficulties of talking with interfaith newcomers.
Anya Cordell observes what happens when any community is cut out of the dialogue and demonized. Sohaib Saeed, as a Muslim pondering the Golden Rule, offers a set of interfaith commitments to polish the skills and perspective of any interfaith activist. Evangelical interfaith dialogue can be engendered if first you handle intrafaith dialogue, writes John Morehead. Don Frew exposes the difficulties of achieving interfaith inclusivity, particularly since 9/11, which so often is credited for a significant increase in interfaith dialogue. And Tony Blair reminds us why interfaith dialogue is critical among the world’s leaders and leaders-to-be.
To leaven these serious notes, Marcus Braybrooke tells the story (the first in a series of interfaith biographical sketches) of Charles Bonney, who had the idea for the original World’s Parliament of Religions in 1893. And Leslie Leasure, a seminarian in Berkeley, California, tells of a splendid day called “Sacred Snapshots,” which introduced participants to dozens of different spiritual practices.