27 Feb Why Bother with ‘Interfaith’?
Updated: Aug 29, 2018
By Josie Child, PAX Producer
The Awareness Foundation is a Christian charity, but interfaith has always been an important part of our work. Why? Our mission is to empower people of faith to embrace diversity and build harmonious communities together. Not just Christians, but people of all faiths. We believe that we are not supposed to exist in a Christian echo chamber; we’re called to love and participate in the world, in all its diversity and difference, just as Jesus did.
I’d like to address three common misconceptions about interfaith. Hopefully this will challenge you to see the potential that interfaith has to build peace in our fractured world.
1) ‘There is no theological case for interfaith dialogue’
God is in everlasting communication with the world through His son, Jesus. The first chapter of John’s Gospel tells us that ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1:1). We learn that ‘the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us’ (John 1:14). Jesus is the living dialogue between God and humanity, the expression of God’s reconciliatory love for us. So if God’s very nature is communicative, and he shows this love through dialogue and seeking relationship, then we should respond by doing the same!
Watch our video on this topic here.
2) ‘The end goal of interfaith should be agreement’
If I engage with other faiths, will it threaten my own faith? Absolutely not! Interfaith does not necessitate compromise, because the end goal of interfaith is not theological agreement – it is understanding. Humbling ourselves to listen to and understand the beliefs, priorities, and intricacies of another faith fosters compassion, breaks down stereotypes based upon fear, and creates a greater appreciation for our common humanity. This strengthens, rather than weakens, my faith, because I learn to understand and articulate my own faith in relation to the world around me.
3) ‘Interfaith is a waste of time’
When we think of interfaith dialogue, the immediate picture that comes to mind is of two learned religious leaders exchanging their wisdom over a cup of tea. It’s so easy to look at this picture with scepticism, and ask; how are these people relatable to me? How is this dialogue helping my community?
But interfaith can be a force for good in the world! If dialogue leads to action, it can produce great fruit! One of the ways that we see evidence of interfaith working is when two faiths come together to tackle a problem in the community. The problem could be as small as littering, or as big as religious extremism; when faiths stand together in understanding, respect, and love, they have real power and influence to change things for the better.
Watch our video on this topic, ‘Is interfaith the answer to extremism?’.
And if you enjoy it, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and leave us a comment, telling us: when have you seen interfaith working effectively?