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Let’s Have a Dialogue!

BS”D

 

I’ve begun reading a book called “Trialogue: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Dialogue,” by Reuven Firestone, Khalid Duran, and Leonard Swidler, a book which attempts to define and guide to a dialogue among the three religions. I haven’t read that much yet, but it seems promising.

It wakes some interesting thoughts. The first and most obvious being “what is dialogue?”

Most of us have probably tried to be talked to, where the talker definitely didn’t want you to respond. Two people, or more, being involved but only one being allowed to talk. That definitely isn’t dialogue. The word dialogue comes from the Greek word ‘dialogos,’ meaning ‘conversion’ or ‘discourse,’ consisting of the two words ‘dia,’ meaning ‘through’ or ‘across,’ and ‘logos’ meaning ‘word.’ This is a word that signifies a conversation taking place from both sides, both being attentive to the other as well as taking part in the conversation. A person denying you the right to be heard, is certainly not conducting a dialogue.

But what about two persons fighting? Both having something to say, that must be a dialogue, no? Well, considering that neither of them probably aren’t that attentive to what the other person has to say that probably wouldn’t be considered a dialogue either. The teacher teaching his students rarely do dialogue, merely teaching them, or at least this is an example from the book, though I have to say that most teachers I have been studying with, certainly have paid attention to their students and participated in dialogue with them, as well as many authors of non-fiction books describe how they learned from their students, somewhat telling me of some kind of dialogue.

Dialogue is when two parts, two persons, have a conversation where they are attentive to each other, not having it as their premise that they are correct and the other part wrong, but rather that they are interested to have added nuances or knowledge to what they already might know, or even not know. Dialogue is established when we give up the need to be right, when we want to relate ourselves to what the other has to say. But dialogue can only appear where both parts have this premise. Many people today talk nicely and polite, but still with the premise that they have to convince or persuade the other part. No matter how polite one will speak and behave, this still isn’t dialogue.

 

In the meeting between religions this is also an important premise, that if we really want to be able to live next to each other, with each other, then we need to open up for each other, get to understand each other. But that won’t happen as long as the premise is to make the other believe as myself. Sure, I understand that some religions have a commandment or expectation to proselyte people, but still. We are in an age where there is so much material on all the religions, where people are more curious than ever, where it is almost impossible not to do some kind of “proselyting” in the meeting with people, so it really isn’t needed. Actually, the need to proselyte might actually just push some people away.

No, if we want to live with each other we need dialogue. And dialogue between religions is not based on the idea that “I already know so much about your religion, now you have to learn about my religion,” but rather “how do you experience and live your religion?” Dialogue is not to define others, based on one’s own perceptions of their religion, but rather allow them to define themselves in context of their religion, as well as how they experience their religion. Dialogue between religions is not necessarily to recognize one’s own religion in the other, nor to find all the overlaps, but rather to get insights and understandings of how the other religion also can be experienced by its practitioners. This can certainly also be achieved within the religions themselves. No religion is at it was when it was created, and today most religions hold several streams, meaning that there are different ways to practice and understand each religion. For example, if you take a Wahabi and a follower of Hazrat Inayat Khan, then you get two different forms of Islam, but both being Islam. The same goes for most religions. We need to be attentive to how people experience their own religion and their own world, that way we might learn a little more about both.

 

One of my goals for this blog, as well as my studies, is dialogue. I know that I present a subject, which I explain about, but I never want it to end there, I want to involve you out there. Even if you feel that it is above you, or you don’t know enough about the subject, then you still should take part in the dialogue. Many things are discovered by fresh eyes and odd thinking (compared to what is established thinking), and only by opening up for those who think different than ourselves, can we get new insights, which we otherwise may have been ignorant too.

 

So, do you have any good experiences with dialogue?


5 Comments

  1. miriamthewalrus says:

    It was so exciting to read this article, as this is the exact field that I am in. I am currently doing an internship that is entirely based around interfaith interactions. My daily job is to essentially be a positive, non-converting Christian face in the various Muslim communities in my city. Because I am (partially) ethnically Jewish, I also try to represent a pro-Palestinian perspective while still remaining true to my background. In Edmonton, the city that I work in, there is a mosque that has initiated youth group get togethers between the mosque and the modern orthodox synagogue. I have been asked to get involved by bringing in Christian youth groups. It’s events like these that make me feel very hopeful about interfaith dialogue, especially in cosmopolitan North America.
    (If you would like to read about the work that I am doing I update my activities in http://mennonitemuslimunderstanding.wordpress.com/ . I look forward to your comments!)

  2. qolyehudi says:

    Hi and welcome to Miriam:o)

    Nice to meet another concerned with the same thoughts as my self, and I have actually visited your blog, as well (now) subscribed to it. It’s going to be interesting to follow your experiences:o).

    How are you viewing the interfaith dialogue in Northern America? Besides some sad and unfortunate stories I’ve heard from university campuses over there, which probably more are based on politics, it is my general impression that it’s pretty positive, that people in general are positive about the interfaith dialogue? It isn’t so well in Europe, except some Christian-Muslim joints, a little spread, or at least that is my impression. I have a theory that it’s more based on the general attitude to religion which prevents it, more than an actual negativity to dialogue between the religions itself. There it is more focused on cultural encounters, where religion, of course, does play a part, but more as part of a wider picture.

    I would be interested to make more of those kinds of initiatives here, Israel/Palestine, but considering the conflict it is a little sensitive. Not that that should stop us, but where to begin and where to find the support:o)

    Anyway, looking forward to our further dialogue;o)

    All the best

    Shmuel

    • miriamthewalrus says:

      Hi Shmuel,
      Are you aware of a man named Zoughbi Zoughbi, who runs a centre called ‘WIAM, The Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center’ in Bethlehem? If so I would love to hear about it! If not, here is a link to a reaction from a talk he gave to the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI): http://icciblog.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/an-impressive-discussion-with-zoughbi-zoughbi-of-bethlehem/
      Again, I would love to hear your impressions of this!
      I think there are definite challenges to be faced with interfaith dialogue. It goes without saying that some of these conflicts are as old as the religions themselves. However, we are all from that same root, and we all worship the same God. And I am happy to say that in my experience, that understanding triumphs over division and anger a vast majority of the time.
      Of course, in the Israeli/Palestinian situation, there are so many other political factors to consider, and interfaith dialogue is just a small part of a very large and complicated picture. I’d love to hear what you think about the role that interfaith dialogue could play in helping to resolve the conflict. Would you consider writing a guest article on my blog?

      • qolyehudi says:

        Hi Miriam:o)

        Sorry for the late reply, I have hardly been online lately.

        I have heard his name, but not related to him specifically, but I will give him a closer look now;o). I am often asked, as an argument against my belief in the will of Palestinians to approach peace, for names on Palestinians “peaceniks,” so I am happy to receive yet another name;o).

        I’m working with some Muslim and Jewish scholars on creating a new initiative, where we are discussing the dialogue, and as you say, there certainly are challenges. For many of us, myself included, there are great feelings and emotions involved, especially in context of the conflict here. Many people, too many, are identifying themselves personally with criticism, suffering of others, and of the whole question of rights, having the acceptance of the “others’ rights” being a challenge to one’s own rights, or at least that is how it is perceived. For many Israelis the whole idea of establishing a Palestinian state seems to be an attack on the existence of Israel, or at least the security of Israel. For them it can’t be thought that Palestine doesn’t necessarily means a new thread, war, terror against Israel. I don’t agree with this, but I understand it. Unfortunately, for many understanding equals agreeing, and I think a great problem lays here. I do understand why Hamas and Hizbullah are using the methods they are using, I don’t agree with it, but I understand it. I do also understand why they come out as benefactors of Muslims, again I don’t agree, but I understand it. I also understand why many Muslims view the “zionist” as some kind of devil, and again I don’t agree with this view, but I understand it. And as you write, understanding can bridge cliffs, so I am glad to hear that there is a will to understand each other:o)

        The main challenge, I believe, is to get past the need to identify ourselves personally with the conflict and its consequences. That might also be the toughest challenge. The same goes with the interfaith dialogue where, I have been told, many people find it almost offensive to accept that some believe in a narrative which doesn’t agree with their own, for example that the Quran teaches that the Jews believed that ‘Uzair was the son of God, have been really offensive to many Jews. But it doesn’t change the fact that it is stated as such in the Quran, and there might be perfectly plausible reasons for the Quran to state that that was the case. Being offended by it doesn’t bring dialogue, on the contrary. It is as if we take statements by religions as being personal attacks:o).

        I would be very honored to write a quest article for your blog. I will spend the next couple of days to ponder a little about it, and then get back to you, if it is okay with you:o)

        All the best

  3. miriamthewalrus says:

    Your challenge of understanding both sides is one that speaks to me deeply, as I am in a similar place. I loved what you said: ” It is as if we take statements by religions as being personal attacks”. All three of our religions require us to love one another and do good deeds for each other, and it is too bad that our religions are generating hate, the opposite of what was originally intended.
    I am looking forward to your guest article!
    Peace and blessings.

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