There is need for religions and spiritualities to intercommunicate, so as to learn, and work with one another. Intercommunication attributes greatly to effective contribution of religious groups in making the world a better place to live in. Inter-religious dialogue has been promoted through provision of forums for exchange among different religious groups.
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Swidler defines inter-religious dialogue as something new to many people, as it has only been deeply imagined by Christians only, although other followers from different religious groups have decided to collaborate (Swidler 10). The idea of inter-religious dialogue remains as an illusion to many, as they fail to understand how Christians can portray their faith in a way that other religions like Muslims, Hindus and Jews can also understand. Most of people consider this as a way of loosing Christian faith.
However, inter religious dialogue has been considered as the most important matrix to reflect the real meaning of life according to the theology by Christians. The possibility and the need for dialogue has been brought by keen understanding of truth and applying it to theology and other methodical reflections (Porpora, Collier, and Archer 32).
The idea behind the success of inter religious dialogue is different religious groups listening to one another openly with an aim of learning from each other, but not forcing change to one another. The other idea that has made it possible is the recent urge of different religious traditions to seek religious wisdom, truth, and ideas through dialogues. In the past, a dialogue between different religious groups was unheard of, until a century ago when this became as an open discussion.
Inter-religious dialogue should be conducted with courage and sincerity. The parties involved should have freedom and reverence. Due to the fact that the parties in dialogue have different opinions, they should put extra effort to create mutual understanding between them, by tabling all the matters in question, find solution, and thus enrich one another.
There are reasons behind seeking the truth in religion field through dialogue such as, the historicization of truth (Imperato 102). This implies to remove the ideas of truth that existed before the nineteenth century. Any correct statement was believed to be static, and if anything was thought to be true it was believed to be true always. Any fact was also related to anything originating from it.
In nineteenth century, several scholars came to relate the truth with the historical circumstances. The historicizing of the truth advanced with time, and started getting concerned with the future but not the past. The second reason is the sociology of knowledge, whereby all the truth was believed to be on the basis of the culture, social class, or on gender of the perceiver (Swidler 18).
The third reason is the limitations of language, whereby all the truthful statements are believed to be part of descriptions of the real thing(s) being described. Its said that although the truth can be seen from all perspectives, human beings can only express issues from only one perspective through the use of language. The fourth reason is hermeneutics, which describes that the full knowledge of a certain text is on the other hand interpretation of the same.
For any inter-religious dialogue to take place effectively, there are some rules that have to be adhered to, the main purpose of initiating the dialogue should be considered by the two parties involved. The second rule is that the inter-religious dialogue must have two parties who are not necessarily from across a faith line but maybe also be coreligionists.
This type of dialogue will enable Christians to share the products of inter-religious dialogue; the whole society would therefore change through learning, and hence global move towards the religion reality. Every party to be involved in the dialogue should be full of honesty and sincerity (Swidler 23).
Every party as well should be aware of its religious traditions both major and minor beliefs. Incase there is a party that is not very sure about its traditions; there should be no room for lies in the dialogue. Another rule for an effective inter-religious dialogue is that ideals of one party should be compared with the ideals of the other party and practices the same. The ideals should never be compared with practices.
In addition, before starting any inter-religious dialogue, the parties to be involved should define themselves well to each other. Its advisable for every party to be involved to state clearly what it takes to be a member of their own religious traditions. All the religious groups can define themselves from outside apart from the Jews who can only define themselves from inside.
During the dialogue, each partner involved should be ready to listen keenly to the other partner, and try as much as possible to agree with the other partner without loosing his or her integrity of his own traditions. Personal integrity should be maintained throughout the dialogue (Imperato 57).
Inter-religious dialogue can only take place between two religion groups that are equal. Incase there is a certain religious group that is claiming to be more superior than the other, then no dialogue can take place between them. The two parties to dialogue should be equal, as this would be the base for learning from each other. This is referred to as “ par cum pari”.
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The inter-religious dialogue should be conducted on the basis of mutual trust. The parties to the dialogue should be members of a certain religion. Just like any other dialogue among persons, personal trust should be the foundation.
The parties are advised to start their dialogue with the least complex issues, so as to establish a common a common beginning and develop some trusts between the two parties. As the trust deepen and advances among the parties, the dialogue can graduate to more complex issues. The minor issues discussed at the beginning of the dialogue, would help a great deal in solving the complex issues.
As the main theme of entering to a dialogue is to learn from each other, persons participating should have self-criticism of themselves and their religions. Lack of this aspect to any of the parties involved would imply that his or her religion is perfect, and posses all the correct answers (Swidler 31).
Lack of self-criticism would make inter-religious dialogue impossible or unnecessary. Believing that ones religion is perfect cannot create a room for learning from the other religion, hence no need for holding a dialogue. Both parties possessing a healthy self-criticism would be a better starting point, as lack of it is lack of integrity.
During the dialogue participants are advised to try to experience the other party’s ideology deep within (Porpora, Collier, and Archer 52). As far as the parties are involved in the dialogue physically, their spirits should also be involved.
Inter-religious dialogue is not like any other common discussion, but a spiritual dialogue with dos and don’ts. Inter-religious dialogue is special, and is composed of three major parts. The first part is practical, where we join together to help human kind. Second part is spiritual, where parties try to experience religion of one another.
The final part is the cognitive, where every party tries to seek for understanding and truth from each other’s religion. In the practical part of inter-religious dialogue, parties get the chance to learn from each other.
In the second part, parties concentrate in their counterpart values, and tries to make them applicable in their own tradition. The parties who are persistent, serious, and ready enough to participate in the dialogue reach the third part. The third part is the most important, as it brings revelation of new areas of reality, and what the truth entails.
Inter-religious dialogue aims at achieving many and different goals in human religious lives. The main goals are classified into three categories. The first category is to discover oneself ever more reflectively. Secondly, this dialogue helps in discovering the other party more faithfully (Imperato 25).
The last category is to enable parties to enjoy life fully accordingly. Through encountering with the others, and discovering some contrasts in our actions leads to people discovering themselves fully. The same case applies in inter-religious dialogue, whereby parties discover well their religion traditions, through contradictions, and common ideas involved in one another’s religion.
The dialogue partners serve as a mirror to one another portraying the true selves of one another, hence why it’s always worth to persevere the dialogue frustrations. The partners in dialogue should not be taken as objects against our wish, but as people whom we are related to in one way or another.
Discovering the true differences among the dialogue parties, which should either be contradictory or complementary would be the best outcome of a dialogue. When holding the dialogue, parties should be very sensitive when placing the differences of their religion to avoid misplacing them (Porpora, Collier, and Archer 45).
Not all true differences fall under the category of contradictions, and a partner should not be quick to place them there. Some ideas that seem to be in contradictory category may be also fit in complementary category, and that is why decisions should be made keenly. Often, the partners may come across some contradictory truth claims in the process of their dialogue, and also some commonality in their religions.
Religious dialogue should mostly entail matters of religion not just a matter of exchanging principles and intellectual ideas. The dialogue should be based on the religious attitude from both partners. Just like Panikkar explained that one might leave as a Christian, after a while becomes a Hindu, and later returns being a Buddhist without changing his or her Christianity faith and doctrines.
This type of experience may not be possible to most of religious people or thinkers, but trying to experience another party’s ideology deep within is possible and achievable (swidler 37).
Swidler argues that imagination is a great contributor in inter-religious dialogue. Whereby, if one allows the feelings, symbols, and stories of the partner to have a room in his or her mind, a move should be expected depending on their strengths that will enable a person to return back to his or her religion traditions as an enlightened person.
The main challenge of inter-religious dialogue is on how one can manage to participate in religious dialogue without loosing integrity of the religion and its traditions, and successfully make the other party to understand and take in ones presentations.
It becomes a challenge to imagine how a Christian would express his insights of faith to another person from a different religion like a Jew or Marxist in a way that is acceptable to them (Oman 120). The people, who are ready to be involved in a dialogue, should not only be convinced by the benefit of it, but the necessity of this dialogue. Its has been proven to be necessary for religious people to get involved in inter-religious dialogue, as this would promote working together to form a universal systematic theology.
Commonality among religious groups can be achieved through inter-religious dialogue. With a common base, it will be possible for religious groups to bring unity in human family, and promote equality among human kind. Sharing something in common among different religious groups will as well result to eradication of violation to individuals. The human community will be of value to every individual and institutions.
Religion commonality will make religious individuals to stand with the poor and the oppressed, and be the source of their consolation despite their religion aspiration. Due to good hope and good will born by commonality, religious people would finally emerge victorious (Albl 110). Through inter-religious dialogue, religious groups will slowly, and painfully work towards a compromise of full human life truth.
Albl, Martin. Reason, Faith, and Tradition: Explorations in Catholic Theology. Maryland: Saint Mary’s Press, 2009.
Imperato, Robert. Christian’s footings: creation, world religions, personalism, revelation, and Jesus. New York: University press of America, 2009.
Oman, Mujiburra. Feeling threatened: a Muslim-Christian relation in Indonesia’s new order. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006.
Porpora, Douglas, Collier, Andrew, and Archer, Margret. Transcendence: critical realism and God. New York: Routledge, 2004.
Swidler, Leonard. Toward a universal Theology of Religion. New York: Mary knoll, 2007.