Last week I was invited to share in a meeting of the Christian-Muslim Forum, in this case a meeting of 30-35 Muslim and Christian scholars gathered together to explore the nature of dialogue itself.
The meeting was at
Professor Tim Winter from
The other main speakers were Maulana Yunus Mohammed of
What made this gathering ‘real’ was the desire to be forthright and honest. No-one is under the illusion that the universal truth claims of Christianity and Islam are reconcilable. They are not. The Archbishop caught the mood when he argued against the views of those who, he said, seem to presuppose that real differences between faiths don’t exist and all such differences can be reconciled. “They can’t” he said and added later that because our religions both make exclusive truth claims “it is not easy to find a space that we can inhabit together.”
So, why bother with dialogue at all? Why enter into dialogue with people whose faith position is strong, whose likelihood of converting is limited, and whose view of your own faith is that it is inadequate?
Yes indeed, these are questions many Muslims ask each other!
And so do Christians.
But since when did we only seek to share our faith with those we consider potential converts? As a
So let’s be honest. In my experience people who are most often critical about interfaith dialogue are critical on two grounds. The first is fear and the second is… fear. But the two are different.
The first fear is a fear of the unfamiliar. It’s a fear of people whose life is so different, whose language and culture is alien, whose worldview is so utterly ‘other’ that people don’t know where to start. People who are most loudly critical often (not always) don’t know a solitary man or woman from another faith. They have never shared a meal in a Hindu home, they do not have a Buddhist or Sikh they would count as a friend, or even a passing acquaintance. This is the fear of the unknown, and it is quite understandable. It just needs to be recognised, owned and dealt with. And in the coming year I’m hoping we at
But there is a second kind of fear too – and it’s the fear of selling out, of compromising our faith and settling for the so-called lowest common denominator. And I’ll look at that issue in a separate blog in the next day or so.