Guidelines for Interfaith Dialogue
from The InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington (IFC)
The Purpose of Interfaith Dialogue
The purpose of interfaith dialogue is to increase our understanding of and respect for other religious systems and institutions, thereby increasing our appreciation of their values. Dialogue should enhance our sensitivity to the feelings of all professing religious people in their relationship with God. Good dialogue should, in addition, result in the deepening of the faith of every participant.
There is valid purpose in dialogue regarding an issue which could become desirable or even mandatory for interfaith action as the result of the dialogue.
There is, however, valid purpose as well in dialogue which takes place for its own sake – for the elucidation of subjects and for the forthcoming of the persons and feelings of the participants.
Interfaith dialogue is possible only when two convictions pre-exist in the participants:
The Process of Interfaith Dialogue
Following a dialogue, it may be helpful to record areas of consensus, areas of similarity, and areas of continuing divergence as those have emerged from the discussions. Such results may be confirmed by all the participants. They can clarify learning and, in addition, suggest subjects for future dialogue activity.
It may also be helpful for the participants to evaluate each dialogue at its conclusion, discussing the ways in which it did or did not work well.
Participants in dialogue should represent their faith group views, but may also share their views as individuals. Thus the rich spectrum of conviction within any faith group can become manifest.
The process of dialogue tends to begin most fruitfully by presenting issues or topics on which there is significant commonality: e.g., varying interpretations of one or more scripture passages. Discussion of topics of mutual concern helps to build both knowledge and trust.
The range of subjects which can be discussed in dialogue is vast. It does not follow that every topic is appropriate. Some subjects involve fundamental and polarized differences which automatically bring on deeply emotional reactions without adding to understanding.
A Valuable Resource
We recommend “Decalogue for Dialogue” by Dr. Leonard Swidler. Its guidelines have been found helpful.
Suggested Ground Rules for Dialogue
Remember we are all on a faith journey, evolving and growing.
May this dialogue help you and others along the path.
Reprinted with permission from The InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, 1426 Ninth Street, NW, 2nd Floor, Washington, DC 20001-3330. Phone: 202-234-6300; Fax: 202-234-6303; firstname.lastname@example.org