Key to communicating across faith lines is friendship and dialogue

By Deb Christian*

Joyce Litoff (photo by George Conklin)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 5, 2014) — Presenter Joyce Litoff started this session by renaming it a "play"shop rather than a "work"shop with the goal of encouraging participants to seek out, establish and enjoy interfaith dialogue and relationships. She made some important points:

  • Friendship and interfaith dialogue can be a beacon for our communities.
  • True interfaith dialogue can lead to effective collaboration on moral issues.

Continuing her playful theme, Ms. Litoff told us we needed C H U G to best communicate across faith lines. No, not the CHUG of a glass of beer or cold water, but:

  • Compassion
  • Humor
  • Understanding
  • Good listening skills

Interfaith dialogue is often difficult because of confusion between the particular and universal. For example, discussion centered around social teachings of a faith group – such as rituals and practices – is particular and may find few areas of agreement whereas discussion focused on spiritual teachings – universal themes such as forgiveness, God is love, prayer is helpful – are frequently inclusive and wide-ranging.

Suggestions for starting interfaith programs that will open communication across faith lines included:

  • Be a good host (invite another faith group)
  • Be a good guest (accept an invitation)
  • Be a friend
  • Share the music
  • Share food

After some exercises in sharing one's own faith and listening, the session closed with some ways to dialogue successfully. First, ask questions. Second, listen (actively) Third, repeat.

Joyce Litoff is an editor and writer and represents the Office of Communications for the Bahá’í National Center. She notes her personal life as an example of experience with various faith groups. She was raised Catholic, married a Jewish husband and was active in synagogue life, and has now come to the Bahá’í Faith.

Deb Christian, is a retired member of RCC. She served as the 2010-2012 President of the RCC.

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