Honest dialogue

Daily Reading for September 11

Of course, Christian-Muslim dialogue must go on. But I am wary of the term ‘inter-faith dialogue’. It often suggests a disconnected, middle class, rather intellectual activity which is cut off from the mass of the people, both inside and outside the faith communities. To be of practical value, dialogue must be localized, honest and courageous. It must explore common ground while recognizing that there are important differences between faith traditions. It must also be very practical. For example, it is often of critical importance that faith communities get together quickly, and the mechanisms that enable this to happen must be put in place. Sadly, the history of inter-faith dialogue suggests that the situation is often the opposite. Often the dialogue is not rooted locally but is vaguely national. It is kind and charitable but tends to blur or avoid areas of controversy. It explores common ground but only at an intellectual level. It avoids differences, and creates no ability to act together when such action becomes really important. Fortunately there are many examples to the contrary.

My main experience has been with Judaism, Christianity and Islam. These three faith traditions have a common belief in communion with God. As I have said, I believe that, in the context of inter-faith work, Christians need to develop a new and extended idea of catholicity. This involves the transcendence of birth, ethnicity, race and nationality, and the commitment to the struggle for a common humanity.

From Race by Kenneth Leech. Copyright © 2005. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY. www.churchpublishing.org

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