Posted by: Andrew | May 13, 2014

What’s the Future for Interfaith Dialogue

It seems to me that lots of people who have been involved in Interfaith Dialogue are expressing frustration with dialogue and many have given up on it all together. So what’s led to this disillusionment, this cynicism and defeatism? Below are my thoughts which may be spot on, wildly inaccurate on somewhere in between.

Nothing Happens
Too much dialogue doesn’t achieve anything. It’s just fairly random discussions that don’t connect or lead to any actual outcomes or activity. In an increasingly busy world people aren’t willing to give up time for directionless or pointless activities.

It’s Irrelevant
Too may events are just people sitting talking about things that mattered a few years ago. There’s little, if any, engagement with issues facing people today who aren’t theologians or historians. Not many people want to discuss conflicts from 800 years ago, but might have an interest in looking at how faith can inspire un to tackle homophobic bullying or the environment.

It’s Too Safe
To much dialogue skirts round the difficult but pressing topics (see above), or when a controversial issue regarding faith hits the media rarely do inter-faith groups comment leaving the way for the loudest people from each faith community shout their opinions. If interfaith is to have a future it has to be brave enough to tackle all topics, however difficult.

It’s Stuck in the Past
Too many dialogue meetings feel like you’ve entered a timewarp to the 1970’s. There’s little if any use of technology, it’s mostly attended by elderly men and there’s great deference for those considered too important to be questioned. This means that others (eg young people and women) don’t get to speak and those with views counter to the prevailing mood are made to feel unwelcome.

It’s Too Restrictive
Rather than being an open and inclusive engagement much dialogue is limited to those from particular faiths (or section within those faiths). As cities become increasingly diverse this become untenable as many from smaller faiths, denominations or ethnic groupings demand legitimate rights to participate.

If interfaith work is to have a future in the UK it needs to address these (and other) issues as a matter of urgency and turn it from an intellectual hobby for professional interfaith practitioners to a vibrant movement for all.

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