Throughout history, religious tension has sparked war.
Even today, religious conflicts devastate news headlines.
But what if we weren’t meant to stimulate conflict over religion? What if, rather, we were called to love regardless of religion?
Religion penetrates every aspect of life for every person. Religion defines identity and worldview.
Our response to this reality, especially as Christians, must be the cultivation of interfaith relations. The heart of interfaith relations is to emphasize the human beneath the faith, and to treat them with respect and compassion.
“Interfaith relations is about living well with one another in the midst of difference,” said Kevin Diller, professor of philosophy.
Christians are called to love one another, and that call is in no sense limited to loving other Christians. We are called to love universally and to set the example, and this must be done through interfaith relations.
“Interfaith relationships challenge us to grow deeper in our walks with Christ and push us into deeper relationships with the people whose religions may have felt previously complex, intimidating or even offensive to us,” said Carissa Zaffiro, (‘20), a global studies major and former event coordinator for Neighborly Faith. “We can love others more fully as we experience our own faith in a fresh and even fuller way.”
As interfaith relations provide a much-needed, fresh perspective upon our life, we are challenged in ways that we have not been challenged before due to the exposure of differences.
Difference tends to be an intimidating factor in interfaith relations, but differences provide the perspective needed to bring about growth and learning.
“I think we learn more about ourselves when we encounter difference than when we encounter sameness,” said Kevin Singer, co-founder of Neighborly Faith.
To engage these differences, one must be ready to learn.
Jesus took the posture of a learner for years prior to engaging in his ministry. Paul learned many cultures in order to meet the people where they needed to be met. As Christians, we are called to come alongside people, not expect them to come alongside us. In order to do this properly, we must engage the mind of a learner.
“That posture, learning, is just allowing them to make themselves known on their own terms and in terms of their own story,” said Diller.
Interfaith relationships not only increase your own faith, but they also provide opportunities to bear witness to others without a word being said. The approach to evangelism should not be arguments and evidence, but rather love and reflection of the way Jesus lived.
“Demonstrate your confidence in the Gospel by showing gentleness, curiosity and respect, knowing that you can do all of these things without compromising one iota of what you believe,” said Singer.
To better equip us to bear witness to the loving image of Jesus Christ we must engage in conversations between faiths.
“It showcases the humility and empathy of Christ while allowing us to participate meaningfully in a rapidly globalizing world,” said Zaffiro.
As the world continues to shrink, we will engage in more and more differences, and interfaith relations have the opportunity to soothe some of the most lethal conflicts.
We must start learning how to engage these differences, and within that engagement we must love well.