Interfaith dialogue is not about telling everyone how great our angle on faith is and trying to convert them to it. It is about respect and openness.
Religious doctrine is expression through language, symbol and concept of something indescribable and un-namable. It is telling, for me, that when Moses asked God, who had appeared to him in a burning bush in the wilderness, "What's your name", God replied "I am who I am...Now go and tell the Israelites I am sent you" (Exodus Chapter 3). In fact the translation doesn't carry the full meaning of even the Hebrew, let alone the full essence of the utterance itself.
When we talk of God and faith, we speak of Mystery, and we do so in language that can never transport the reality of that to which we seek to refer.
Much fighting and squabbling in the world is attributed to the clashes between religious people who think they have the one true faith and who think that all the world should think about and relate to God, life and the universe within their particular structures of belief.
I am not interested in any trivial shows of ecumenism. I am interested in sharing spiritual practice and positive dialogue, through which people of diverse cultural, religious, political and philosophical background may learn of each other's authentic journeys through time and space. I have rarely, if ever, met a person who, at the deeper levels, beneath the surface lenses of their programmed mind, does not love the message of Jesus Christ. I have met of course very many who, often with reasons I empathise with, absoulutely abhor the church (at least the post second or third century versions of the church). Honest and respectful interfaith dialogue is the only way to heal the rift between perception of Christ and perception of church. So I try to walk in the integrity of my calling to Christian priesthood, seeking, through Christ, authenticity in how that might be expressed and lived out.
Meanwhile, I want to look into the hearts of my sisters and brothers of differing spiritual understanding and share with them also what is in mine. If people of faith, or those without conscious faith for that matter, take the time to listen deeply to eachother, then faith may yet have something earthshakingly of value to say to the world. Christ reveals I am who I am to, in, through and for all creation, not just for those who say the 'right' creeds and sing the 'right' songs. There is a wonderful opportunity to find out so much more than we think we know through interfaith dialogue! I hope that you will find some of this dialogue on this page and that you will be stirred to join in with it.
Fr Tim Ardouin
Bishop's Officer for Interfaith Dialogue
An interview with Alexander John Shaia