Editor: David R. Smock
Publisher: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2002
Reviewer: Jay Willoughby
150 pages. ISBN 1- 929223-35-8
In our increasingly diverse societies, we interact with people of different faiths. At times, this poses a great challenge: something deeply sacred and ?true” for one faith might be in stark contrast with what is ?true” in another religious tradition. How can we share our values in such a way that the true messages of our different faiths benefit people from other religious traditions? Interfaith dialog is a means for achieving this greater goal by persons of different faiths meeting to have a conversation. ?But dialog is not debate.” notes Leonard Swindler.
?In dialogue, each must listen to the other as openly and sympathetically as s/he can in an attempt to understand the other?s position as precisely and, as it were, as much from within, as possible. Such an attitude automatically includes the assumption that at any point we might find the partner?s position so persuasive that?we would have to change.”
There is a need to recognize that differences do exist and the objective is not to ?correct” but to hear and listen to the other side.
Religion is usually cited as the cause of or at least a factor to conflict around the world. Drawing upon the experiences of the contributors, the goal of ?Interfaith Dialogue and Peacebuilding” is to identify the ways in which we can engage in productive interfaith dialogue. Rabbi Arthur Schneier, one of the contributors of the book, points out that religion is never the real cause of conflict within or between societies, but it is often identified as an excuse for other causes such as ethnicity, economic disparities, and regional differences.
The main assertion of the book is that interfaith dialogue can be used as an effective tool to advance peace building around the world.
Based on his experience and studies on conflict resolution, Professor Mohammed Abu-Nimer identifies four phases of development in an effective experiment of interfaith dialogue. He suggests that the earlier encounters should focus on individual and group similarities in theologies and scriptures.
One example could be to jointly study the sacred texts of each religion. It must be remembered that the goal for these studies is not debate or conversions.
Professor Marc Gopin notes that these shared studies should yield deeper bonds through invitations to homes and meetings with families.
The second phase is to deepen the relationship through joint prayers that are not contradictory to the other faith and by participating in the other faith?s rituals.
Having established trust and an understanding of the other faith, the third Phase religious values and faith practices.
The final step should be exploring the ways in which messages of different faiths can benefit people from other religious traditions in the same community.
SCENE invites readers to submit suggestions for future book
reviews. The Editor would also be receptive to reviews of such books which may
have especially interested a reader and who consequently would be prepared to
write a review for publication in a future issue of SCENE. Reviews should be
475-500 words in length and would need to be edited if they exceeded this word
Email address: email@example.com