North Carolina Interfaith Dialogue Project

Statement of Purpose

When a distinguished group of Muslim Imams published their historic “A Common Word Between Us and You” it was met with resounding expressions of appreciation by religious and secular leaders alike.  It was an effort to initiate a broad dialogue across the United States between Muslims and Christians.  It focused on two central themes which these two historic faiths hold in common: Love of God, and Love of Neighbor, and it sites the many texts of the Hebrew Scriptures which are venerated by both religious traditions.  It seemed inappropriate to engage in such a dialogue without including our Jewish colleagues from whose faith tradition these texts originated.  Hence, a three way dialogue was seen as the best approach.

The purpose of the North Carolina Interfaith Dialogue Project is to initiate and coordinate, to what ever extent is needed, a state wide series of conversations between the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities, the historic descendants in religious faith, of Abraham.  The initial Interfaith Dialogue group, which meets in Raleigh, will identify and invite leaders from the three faith traditions from communities around North Carolina to begin meeting together in their local communities.  The purpose of such discussions is to explore the wisdom of “A Common Word Between Us and You,” with the hope of promoting a changed climate of mutual understanding, acceptance and cooperation.

The Raleigh Interfaith Dialogue group has discovered many misunderstandings that exist between and among us, misperceptions that have, in some instances, assumed the stature of conventional wisdom.  Those have been carefully explored and new levels of appreciation have emerged as the group discovered the many similarities as well as the clear differences in our faith and piety.  Discussions regarding family and ethical concerns were very informative, and the process of comparing similar texts and our various interpretations of them added to a deeper understanding, if not always agreement.

This initial group has no desire to clone itself in other areas of the state, but only to make this dialogue opportunity available to many communities where it might not otherwise take place and where it could have a positive impact.  Each local group would be free to determine its own approach and encouraged to take new directions, possibly to include invitations to other faith groups in their communities to join them.  The attached description of the procedure of the Raleigh Interfaith Dialogue Group is offered only as an example of how other groups might proceed.

Implementation

Lists will be compiled of leaders in the three faith communities across North Carolina, persons who may well be interested in convening and initiating such a dialogue in their respective areas.   The lists will be collated to determine in which communities one or more of such potentially interested persons of each of the three traditions resides.  Those leaders will be contacted, told of this effort and invited to convene a group in each of these communities.  Participants in the Raleigh group will be available to assist with resources, possibly to include a DVD of a dialogue session and, if needed, to be present for an initial gathering.

It is anticipated that several such groups will be organized initially, with others to follow if and as the results warrant.  As groups are formed they will be connected through appropriate (and as yet undetermined) electronic means for the purpose of learning from the experience of others and for mutual encouragement.

With faith in the One God/Allah who inspires us all and in whom is our hope, we pray for the prospering of this effort.

Addendum

An exploratory meeting of persons interested in interfaith dialogue was convened on December 9, 2008.  The session was proposed for the purpose of discussing “A Common Word Between Us and You,” a proposal from a group of distinguished Islamic scholars, and the various Christian and Jewish responses to it.

Brief introductions were shared, as well as current engagements of the participants in various interfaith efforts.  Participants also shared their hopes for the future and for the possible impact of such interfaith discussions in our communities.  All agreed that a wide gulf of misunderstanding exists among people of the three faiths, a gap that needs to be bridged if we are to have harmony and be able to work together for the common good.

It was acknowledged that a variety of interfaith dialogues are currently being pursued and that we can learn from them.  It was also agreed that “a Common Word Between Us and You” provides a unique way to explore the critical issues in our faith traditions, and that we would focus initially on a discussion of it.  Our intent is to get beyond a polite, “mutual admiration” conversation and dig to the heart of our pain and differences, as well as to those things we hold in common.  We will seek to be honest and affirming on the road to understanding.

At subsequent meetings the group continued to study the “Common Word” document and agreed that the experience was fruitful enough to continue, and that we would invite others to participate.  Therefore, the Statement of Purpose and Implementation noted above were prepared.  We pray that our efforts will be blessed.

Recommended:

Chris Liu-Beers, Former Program Associate Chris Liu-Beers, Former Program Associate

Chris worked on immigrant rights, farmworker justice, sustainability, worship resources, and the Council's website. He left the Council in 2014 to run Tomatillo Design, a company that builds affordable websites for nonprofits.

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