October 2011 Theme

Interfaith History

Of the 12 themes on TIO’s year-one agenda, this month’s focus, interfaith history, has the fewest available resources. Interfaith history is an unplowed field of dreams for future graduate students. And given today’s unprecedented religious diversity, historical comparisons become provocative and instructive.

This month’s opening essays explore interfaith experiments 2300, 2100, 1600, 1000, and 500 years ago, fascinating proof that the dream of an harmonious integrated interfaith culture is not something new.

Reclaiming Ashoka – An Iron Age Interfaith Exemplar by Harish Singhal and Paul Chaffee
Looking Back To Light Our Future by Jesse F. Tanner

Marcus Braybrooke is the man we thank for writing the history of the modern interfaith movement. His 40-plus books enrich our bookshelves, including Pilgrimage of Hope (1992), the standard history of the movement’s first hundred years. In his essay here Professor Braybrooke takes us into the minds of the planners of the first Parliament of Religions, then deftly surveys the 118 years since then. In an accompanying interview he talk about his experiences and hopes for the future. Several of his books are free to download at religion-online.org , including The Explorer’s Guide to Christianity , a refreshing introduction for non-Christians without any proselytizing.

A Dream that is Contagious by Marcus Braybrooke
A TIO Interview with Marcus Braybrooke

Swami Vivekananda, Juliet Hollister, and Huston Smith have worthy peers when one considers interfaith pioneers. These three, though, will likely show up on any short list of leaders who have made a difference helping foster a healthy global multifaith culture. For the record, Alison Van Dyk was Juliet Hollister’s close friend and colleague, Rev. Heng Sure has been Huston Smith’s close friend and colleague for years, and Paul Chaffee surely wishes he had known Swami Vivekananda.

Crossing the Ocean & Changing the World by Paul Chaffee
The Legacy of Juliet Hollister by Alison Van Dyk
Knowing Huston Smith by Heng Sure

Historiographers have educated us to the complexity of history, its meanings, and the different directions it can take us. The last three essays make the case. In his second contribution this month, Jesse Tanner surveys the core documents providing interfaith culture its intellectual, spiritual grounding. Then Julian Foley and Kay Lindahl bring the focus back home, but with the jolt you feel when finding yourself caught up in historic circumstances.

Foundational Documents of the Interfaith Movement by Jesse F. Tanner
URI Leads Non-Violent Elections Campaign in Uganda by Julian Foley
How the 1993 Parliament Changed My Life by Kay Lindahl