Recently, we have been reading much about “Interfaith Dialogues,” where members of different faiths discuss/share/debate religious beliefs. I personally got a few invitations to partake in such events.
What exactly is it?
So, despite being very short on a commodity called “time,” I decided to embark on a short journey to try and understand what exactly this “Interfaith Dialogue” entails.
I trust that starting any discussion with the intent of making it a productive one, ensuring that all sides speak the same language and have the same understanding of key terms, a short definition of the term, would be useful.
Here are three sources for the definition of the term “Interfaith.”
The first a basic one from Merriam-Webster defines it as “involving persons of different religious faiths.” For those who consider themselves more educated, here are two more by the Cambridge Dictionary and the Oxford one, successively.
“relating to activities involving members of different religions,” and “Relating to or involving different religions or members of different religions.”
For the innocent bystander, such, an almost identical definition of the term “interfaith,” as bringing together people of different faiths, is the fulfillment of the vision of the end of days and Biblical prophecies. And indeed, it can hold much potential of improving relationship and repair rifts that are, in many cases, the result of religious differences and conflicts as history has proved to us time and again.
My question, though, is, will debating or discussing religious differences really going to bring about the so well sought “kumbaya?” Might it not cause a deeper rift? What is the likelihood that following such debates or religious encounters anyone may change their beliefs? Has the invention of the term “Judeo-Christian” brought more peace between Jews and Christians? Some say “yes,” some say “no,” others say “maybe.” Is it quantifiable? Has appropriation, or usurpation of Jewish symbols, terms and ideas by some Christians resulting from “Interfaith Dialogue,” coupled with Jews allowing it, helped Jews in any way?
My answer is NO!
In my experience such debates ended in deeper divides and more vain hatred. Why can’t members of any faith adhere to and practice what Lord, Rabbi Sacks calls ”The Dignity of Difference?” Why do some members of some faiths feel a need to use scare techniques (I was once told that if I do not accept Jesus/Yeshua I “will burn in hell”) or promises of a “better Afterlife” to lure and gain followers?
Is religious interfaith indeed the ONLY answer to ensure a better future for all?
Why can’t Jews, Christians, Muslims or members of other faiths enter a fruitful and productive “Interfaith” exchange in areas such as business, culture, sports or art? Why does it always have to be a “religious interfaith?”
As my dear, wonderful and very wise friend, Roger Froikin likes to end his stimulating, well thought of and challenging comments, “think about that!”