Interfaith dialogue

This year I am studying a paper on world religions, which so far is very interesting  I follow a post called Gifts in Open Hands, which I can recommend. Yesterday it contained an article by a Christian Archbishop who had been invited to speak at a mosque. Here is an excerpt:

We should first recognize that the religious diversity is the will of the creator.  And more than that religious diversity is a precious gift. Otherwise we should consider Judaism, Christianity and Islam as mere accidents of human history.

There is divine will and purpose in this diversity.  All these religious communities exist for a purpose. Rabbi Akiba has famously maintained declared ‘every community which is established for the sake of heaven will in the end endure; but one which is not for the sake of heaven will not endure in the end.’

We may not completely understand why is the gift of religious diversity is so valuable or how this gift is to be used in our lives and relations but humility and mutuality inspired by each others love should enable us to see and understand its significance.

I am inspired by the writer’s approach to diversity – he makes some good points from the Quran about diversity too.

The Quran itself offers most beautiful affirmation of religious and cultural diversity:

‘Had your Lord willed, all the people on earth in their entirety would have acknowledged. Would you force the people to make them acknowledge?’ (Yunus 10:99).

This means that had the Lord wanted everybody to be Muslim, then everybody would be Muslim. The Quran goes even further affirming various religious communities of the time of Prophet (peace be upon him):

‘Those who believe [in the Quran] and those who follow the Jewish [scriptures], and the Christians and the Sabians, and who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.’ (Al-Baqarah 2:62)

Or another fascinating statement:

‘Say: “We believe in God, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaak, Jacob, and the Tribes, and [in the books] given to Moses, Jesus, and the Prophets, from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another among them, and to God do we bow our will [in Islam].’  (Al-‘Imran 3:84)

The Quran also affirms wider cultural diversity:

‘O men! Behold We have created you all out of a male and female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold God is all-knowing, all aware.’ (Al-Hujurat 49:13)

This is new for me. I am looking forward in my studies this year to finding out more about what Muslims actually believe, what their scriptures actually say. There is a prejudice among Christians about these things, and maybe it’s time to re-think that. Click the link to read the whole article.

A Gift of the One God: Religious Diversity, Georgian Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili