Principles and Guidelines for Interfaith Dialogue

By Terry Coleman,2014-05-09 21:52
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Principles and Guidelines for Interfaith Dialogue

    Principles and Principles and

    Guidelines for Guidelines for

    Interfaith Interfaith

    Dialogue Dialogue

    ―Speaking and Listening with Respect: Students, Faith, and Dialogue‖

    Khartoum, Sudan ? Cairo, Egypt ? Toronto, Canada

    October 2008


    ; Guidelines for Interreligious Understanding

    ; Inter-Faith Interactions

    ; Dialogue Decalogue

    ; Three Goals of Interreligious Dialogue

    ; Principles towards Better Interfaith Relations

    ; Four Levels of Interreligious Dialogue

    ; Five Types of Interreligious Dialogue

    ; Assisi Decalogue for Peace

    ; Dialogue is not debate

    ; Nine Guidelines for Listening to Others

Guidelines for Interreligious


    Fr. Thomas Keating is a Roman Catholic priest and Trappist Monk who has made a major contribution to the centering prayer movement and to Interfaith spirituality. He is convener of the Snowmass Conference and a member of the international monastic inter-religious movement. He authored the following report: A report on an experience of on-going inter-religious dialogue might be helpful at this point. In 1984, I invited a group of spiritual teachers from a variety of the world religions

    Buddhist, Tibetan Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Islamic, Native American, Russian Orthodox, Protestant, and Roman Catholic to gather at St. Benedict's Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, to meditate together in silence and to share our personal spiritual journeys, especially those elements in our respective traditions that have proved most helpful to us along the way.



    We kept no record and published no papers. As our trust and friendship grew, we felt moved to investigate various points that we seemed to agree on. The original points of agreement were worked over during the course of subsequent meetings as we continued to meet, for a week or so each year. Our most recent list consists of the following eight points:

    1. The world religions bear witness to the experience of

    Ultimate Reality to which they give various names:

    Brahman, Allah, Absolute, God, Great Spirit.

    2. Ultimate Reality cannot be limited by any name or


    3. Ultimate Reality is the ground of infinite potentiality

    and actualization.

    4. Faith is opening, accepting and responding to Ultimate

    Reality. Faith in this sense precedes every belief system.

    5. The potential for human wholeness (or in other frames

    of reference) -- enlightenment, salvation,

    transformation, blessedness, "nirvana" -- is present in

    every human person.

    6. Ultimate Reality may be experienced not only through

    religious practices but also through nature, art, human

    relationships, and service of others.

    7. As long as the human condition is experienced as

    separate from Ultimate Reality, it is subject to

    ignorance and illusion, weakness and suffering.

    8. Disciplined practice is essential to the spiritual life; yet

    spiritual attainment is not the result of one's own

    efforts, but the result of the experience of oneness

    with Ultimate Reality.



    Inter-Faith Interactions

    So, what happens when you encounter representatives of another religious tradition? There are two possible outcomes. One possible scenario would result in conflict, accusations, insensitivity, and misunderstanding, much like it has repeated itself throughout history. The other scenario would result in a hope for dialogue and a renewed understanding of increased respect for diversity and religious freedom.

     As you engage other faiths on your campus for this shared cause, remember to treat the beliefs of all people with respect. Avoid ―attack language‖ and reliance on stereotypes, especially unflattering ones. Instead, if you’re curious about another faith, ask questions in a non-confrontational way, avoiding absolute terms like ―always‖ and ―you all‖, and be opening to be questioned yourself.

     Bear in mind that this study and reflection session is just a beginning for a way to move beyond the fear and stereotypes which we may have of another denomination or religion by replacing fear with experience and insight.



    Points of Agreement or Similarity

    A. Some examples of disciplined practice, common to us all:

    1. Practice of compassion

    2. Service to others

    3. Practicing moral precepts and virtues

    4. Training in meditation techniques and regularity of


    5. Attention to diet and exercise

    6. Fasting and abstinence

    7. The use of music and chanting and sacred symbols

    8. Practice in awareness (recollection, mindfulness) and

    living in the present moment

    9. Pilgrimage

    10. Study of scriptural texts and scriptures

    And in some traditions:

    11. Relationship with a qualified teacher

    12. Repetition of sacred words (mantra, japa)

    13. Observance of periods of silence and solitude

    14. Movement and dance

    15. Formation of community

    B. It is essential to extend our formal practice of awareness into all aspects of our life.

    C. Humility, gratitude, and a sense of humor are indispensable in the spiritual life.

    D. Prayer is communion with Ultimate Reality, whether it is regarded as personal, impersonal, or beyond them both.



    We were surprised and delighted to find so many points of similarity and convergence in our respective paths. Like most people of our time, we originally expected that we would find practically nothing in common. In the years that followed, we spontaneously and somewhat hesitatingly began to take a closer look at certain points of disagreement until these became our main focus of attention. We found that discussing our points of disagreement increased the bonding of the group even more than discovering our points of agreement. We became more honest in stating frankly what we believed and why, without at the same time making any effort to convince others of our own position. We simply presented our understanding as a gift to the group.



    Dialogue Decalogue

    Ground Rules for Inter-religious, Inter-ideological Dialogue These principles of dialogue were formulated by Professor Leonard Swidler of Temple University. The text is printed in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies 20:1 (1984).


    The primary purpose of dialogue is to learn; that is, to change and grow in the perception and understanding of reality, and then to act accordingly.


    Inter-religious, inter-ideological dialogue must be a two-sided project within each religious or ideological community and between religious or ideological communities.


    Each participant must come to the dialogue with complete honesty and sincerity.


    In inter-religious, inter-ideological dialogue we must not compare our ideals with our partner's practice, but rather our ideals with our partner's ideals, our practice with our partner's practice.


    Each participant must define himself... Conversely, the interpreted must be able to recognize herself in the interpretation.




    Each participant must come to the dialogue with no hard-ançl-fast assumptions as to where the points of disagreement are. SEVENTH COMMANDMENT

    Dialogue can take place only between equals... Both must come to learn from each other.


    Dialogue can take place only on the basis of mutual trust. NINTH COMMANDMENT

    Persons entering into inter-religious, inter-ideological dialogue must be at least minimally self-critical of both themselves and their own religious or ideological traditions.


    Each participant eventually must attempt to experience the partner's religion or ideology 'from within'; for a religion or ideology is not merely something of the head, but also of the spirit, heart, and 'whole being,' individual and communal.



    Three Goals of Interreligious


    1. To know oneself ever more profoundly and enrich and

    round out one's appreciation of one's own faith


    2. To know the other ever more authentically and gain a

    friendly understanding of others as they are and not in


    3. To live ever more fully accordingly and to establish a

    more solid foundation for community of life and action

    among persons of various traditions

    (Leonard Swidler, Toward a Unlversal Theology of Religion, p. 26)

    Principles towards Better Interfaith Relations

    1. We confess our failures and lack of love, respect and

    sensitivity to people of other faiths in the past. We

    intend to forgive one another, seek the forgiveness of

    others and commit ourselves to a new beginning.

    2. We affirm that good interfaith relations can open the

    way to better interethnic relations and peace

    throughout the world.

    3. We recognise building true community (koinonia) ,

    both among persons and various ethnic and religious

    communities, as our primary objective. We need to



    develop a global theology that will be appropriate for

    the unfolding sense of a globalised world.

    4. We affirm the importance of promoting a culture of

    dialogue within and among all religious communities

    and indigenous traditions.

    5. We condemn violence and terrorism as being against

    the spirit of all true religion and we pledge ourselves to

    removing their causes.

    6. We shall respect the integrity of all religions and

    ensure that they have the freedom to follow their own

    beliefs and practices.

    7. We believe that the different religions are enriched by

    identifying agendas in which they can collaborate, such

    as making peace, protecting the environment,

    eradicating poverty and ensuring the human dignity of


    8. We affirm that it is important for us all to listen to and

    learn from other religions so that we can value

    religious plurality as a factor that enriches our


    9. We endeavour to live out and explain the truths of our

    own religion in a manner that is intelligible and friendly

    to people of other faiths.

    10. Cultural diversity as well as religious diversity in our

    communities will be affirmed as a source of enrichment

    and challenge.

    Prepared by the Rt. Rev. Kenneth Fernando for the Network

    of Interfaith Concerns of the Anglican Communion


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