September 28 2022 6:11 AM E-paper Subscribe Sign in My Account Sign out

Interfaith dialogue again

Rula Samain
Rula Samain (Photo: JNews)
Have we forgotten about the importance of interfaith dialogue over the past twelve months of the COVID-19 pandemic? Has such a significant initiative failed its purpose in our current times? Has the enthusiasm of the people who believe and stand for peace faltered? I believe that now is the right time to unlock the true potential of interfaith dialogue and give it back its true value in our society: to ease tension, enable solving the sensitive and common challenges, and move ahead.اضافة اعلان

Interfaith dialogue is defined as an honorable kind of dialogue between intellectuals for the sake of mutual understanding, and to bring harmony and compassion to societies. It starts with, but is not limited to, key religious figures from different faiths who consequently teach their communities tolerance and respect, the foundation of interfaith dialogues.

Christian-Muslim interfaith dialogue is based on the core values of love of God and one’s neighbor, which consequently bring with it harmony and compassion between the followers of the different religions to build peaceful communities.

Its need in today’s different and difficult world is immense since it serves as societies’ shield against the mounting challenges.

In the past decade or so, the Middle East has witnessed difficult times, especially during the so-called the Arab Spring and later with the emergence of Daesh. Interfaith dialogue succeeded in spreading love and compassion over brutality and heartlessness, easing tensions, bringing positive changes in people’s aggressive attitude, and building peaceful relations in pluralistic societies.

Much work has been done in the past decade concerning interfaith dialogue, be it in the conducting research, the publication of books, the holding of conferences, the launching of initiatives, or the forming of partnerships. It succeeded where other forms of dialogue have failed because many believed in and trusted in religious institutions and their key figures. Many still do.

The need for it now is equally immense amidst the worldwide panic caused by the spread of COVID-19, which was declared a pandemic in March and allowed tension, worry, and fear to prevail. Interfaith dialogue succeeded in reviving societies. Economic growth, an innovative process, is one aspect of success encouraged by living in harmony — a result of vigorous interfaith dialogue. However, this success is not permanent, as continuous interfaith efforts were interrupted by the pandemic.

Nevertheless, it is during such times that interfaith dialogue should prosper again and take its indispensable role in limiting if not preventing societies’ tensions, changing negative attitudes and behaviors, as well as combating the atrocities fueled by the wrongful portrayal of the other.

Pandemics usually inflame poverty and unemployment, help to raise ethnic and religious tensions, and weaken the moral system. In our society, like in many others, people’s trust in religious institutions is still high. These institutions can help play a visible role in spreading harmony, which in turn will give way to addressing other developmental challenges.

As a journalist who has been covering this topic for the past decade, I have witnessed the great efforts made by all key figures, but the halt that the pandemic forced on people from all walks of life left the important part undone. There are legal restrictions and legislative loopholes that need to be addressed, in the areas of custody, inheritance, and education, among others. 

In spite of the limited literature exploring the effectiveness of interfaith dialogue in the past and its true effect on our society, I have no doubt that interfaith dialogue can create a proven impact on our society. We can start again. Past efforts have only achieved limited goals, but if we realize the true potential of interfaith dialogue and move forward to attain true reconciliation, we can move forward on the path of progress.