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Dialogue is the most important thing faiths can do in today’s world

Dialogue among people of different religions may seem impossible in today’s world of extremism and hate. How can we begin to speak with those we see as the “other” or as our enemy? When we give in to fear, we’re likely to buy and use more weapons, as if violence will end terror.

At least dialogue among religions can help us dispel the misuse of religion to justify violence and injustice.

When people of different faiths gather, as they did Nov. 16 and 17 at the Ecumenical Center of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva, Switzerland, they experience how dialogue enhances respect, friendship, trust and awareness of people and faith beyond what the headlines portray. The eighth meeting for dialogue with the WCC and the Center for Interreligious Dialogue (CID) is reported on at

Mohammad Ali Shomali, founding director of the International Institute for Islamic Studies in Qum and director of the Islamic Center of England, encourages Christians and Muslims to see themselves not as members of different religious, but as different branches of the same religion, rooted in the God of Abraham.

“Although different prophets came in different times and places and spoke different languages, they were sent by the same God.  In the end of time, there will be only one school and that is the school of God, in which different prophets or teachers may teach, but there would be only one authority and one syllabus. We should be united under God, but we may benefit from different teachers,” he said.

Heidi Hadsell, president and professor of social ethics at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, points out that a fruit of 20 years of dialogue is that the partners today can “speak honestly with each other and trust each other.”  When that happens, they can hold each other responsible.

She said the process of dialogue between the WCC and CID since 1995 can help the faiths address urgent questions.

The Rev. Bonnie Evans-Hills, interfaith  advisor for the Diocese of St. Albans, England, pointed out that “those who kill don’t care whether they kill Christians, Muslims or Jews.”  With all being targets, she advises that the faiths “pull together and love one another.” She added that rather than young people being pulled away from religions by secularism, young people are more likely disenchanted because the exclusivism of faiths invites violence.

In this issue, the story of John and Joan Weekes exemplifies how exclusive claims of one church tore at the ties of one family, until John’s pilgrimage through post-war damage in Asia and Europe.  He experienced an accepting chaplain and accepting people as he visited in Europe and America.  That opened him to accept different people, and stand in solidarity with them when hatred threatened their lives and freedom.

The story of Mark Kadel helping hundreds of people and congregations live out and be enriched by welcoming strangers who come to Spokane as refugees, exemplifies how community and society grow when we overcome our fears of refugees.

Hilary Shelton of the national NAACP reviews the legacy of legislation that has challenged racial bigotry and separation in the United States, and the long road ahead in education and dialogue so we unite to secure freedom and equality for all people.

In addition, two stories tell how Transitions and Volunteers of America help marginalized people gain education, jobs, new beginnings and hope for their lives. 

Both rely on the faith community working together in cooperation, based on respect from years of dialogue and understanding common concerns and values.

May we continue to be in dialogue.

Mary Stamp - Editor

Copyright © December 2015 - The Fig Tree