Many Christians wonder what interfaith work is for.
In West Wales, surely there is little need for it? However, another view is that, because there is relatively little exposure to people of other faiths in this area, there is even more need for awareness of the beliefs of other faiths in this divided world.
For many, interfaith work has one over-riding purpose: to bring peace to the planet. Peaceful communities can help build peace in the world.
There is a strong tradition of peace and tolerance in Welsh Christianity which has helped shape the nation’s consciousness. Such virtues are at the heart of all true religions and they are gifts that can be shared with society.
Religious divides are fuelled by fear and misunderstanding and rarely reflect the reality of those who live with an open-hearted faith. It is time to dwell on the positives and recognise that people who seek to live peacefully in caring and compassionate ways can be role models within our communities, whatever their spiritual tradition.
The following is an extract from the Interfaith Wales Report by Rt Revd Dominic Walker, formerly Bishop of Monmouth:
“There are various approaches to inter-faith dialogue. There are those who say that there is no point in talking to those of other faiths except to try and convert them from the error of their ways to the truth of one’s own. I have heard both Christians and Muslims take this view. Then there are others who say that we are all climbing the same mountain but simply taking different routes. The monk and spiritual writer, Thomas Merton, said that those of all religions who reach spiritual maturity and get towards the top of the mountain come closer together, but too many people spend their time at the foot of the mountain trying to find different routes to climb. Religions of course, tend to be linked to certain cultures.
The most common approach for Christians is to enter into inter-faith dialogue ready to listen and learn from others, but also recognising the uniqueness of God’s revelation in Christ, but not wishing to restrict that revelation to the Christian Church alone. Writing of Christ as the logos, St John said that he is ‘the true light that enlightens every man coming into the world’ , and as Archbishop William Temple wrote fifty years ago:
“All that is noble in the non-Christian systems of thought, or conduct, or worship is the work of Christ upon them and within them. By the Word of God – that is to say, by Jesus Christ – Isaiah, and Plato, Zoroaster, and Buddha, and Confucius conceived and uttered such truths as they declared. There is only one divine light; and ever man in his measure is enlightened by it.”
The gospel commands us to love our neighbours, but first we have to offer them friendship. Then we may discover together that there is one God and Father of us all.”