Peace One Day

This week is Peace One Day and because of that I went to Kilmarnock on Monday and gave a speech about Peace in the family, the community and the world and what interfaith dialogue can do for it. The following text is the manuscript of this speech (but without the general introduction about myself and the work of Interfaith Scotland):

Peace = Shalom

What do you think when you hear the word peace? Do you think about gravestone where you can read Rest in Peace on? Do you think about old man in suits or uniforms shaking hands in front of TV cameras? Do you think about rainbow flags and peace doves?

When I think about peace I think about a town where I lived for about five years. In Münster and its neighbour town Osnabrück the maybe largest peace treaty ever has been signed in 1648. Literally every European state had been involved in the big thirty years war. Started as a religious war between protestants and Catholics it became a big war between the different European powers. Soldiers from Sweden, Denmark, France, Spain, Austria and all the small German states of this time fought against each other. When the peace contract was signed messenger were sent to every country and told the world that war was over. In Münster they had huge celebrations with a lot of dancing and music and all fountains were filled with wine. For the people living in this time after more than one generation of war it must have felt like being in heaven.

But the peace wasn’t for long. Since 1648 Germany, Europe and the world have suffered from a lot of wars. Even when we have the maybe longest peace period in western and central Europe just now, there are so many places in the world where people suffer from war, violence and injustice.

So, what can we say about peace today? Peace in the Family, in the Community and in the world? When I learned Hebrew in university I learned about the Hebrew word for peace – shalom. It’s cognate to the Arabic word salaam and both can be used when you meet someone to say hello or good bye. My teacher at university told me, that shalom does not mean “only” peace in the meaning there is no war, it means also full harmony between god, mankind and the whole creation. It can mean every aspect of wellbeing for individuals or nations or the whole world. So, shalom has a much wider meaning than the English word “peace” or the German word “Frieden”. It is much more general and has a universal perspective of harmony in the world. From my point of view when we talk about peace – we should talk about shalom.

There are so many families here in Scotland and in the world who don’t have shalom. Shalom in a family would mean that parents and children treat each other with respect and love. Shalom in a family would mean that partners are treating each other with respect and love. Shalom in a family would mean that children treat each other with respect and love. Shalom in a family would mean that no one has to suffer from violence. Shalom in a family would mean that no one has to be afraid to tell his or her opinion.

There are so many communities where the people don’t have shalom. Shalom in a community would mean that no one has to stay lonely, because people care for each other. Shalom in a community would mean that no one has to be ashamed about what he or she feels or thinks. Shalom in a community would mean that everyone has enough to live: a place to stay, a meaningful task to do and no sorrows about how to get his or her food for the next day. Shalom in a community would mean, that everyone can live the life he or she wants and everyone respects it.

There is our world and most of the people living here don’t have shalom. Shalom for the world would mean, that there are no wars anymore. Not between states, not between nations, not between religions and faiths. Shalom for the world would mean, that no one has to leave his home because of economic reasons or because his or her life is threatened by war, violence or hunger. Shalom for the world would mean, that mankind stops destroying the environment. Shalom for the world would mean, that everyone can get a good education. Shalom for the world would mean, that no children have to work instead of going to school. Shalom for the world would mean, that all the nations and religions live in peace together instead of claiming supremacy about each other.

Living in shalom in our families, communities and in the world would be a great thing. It would legitimate a big party – much bigger then the parties after the end of the thirty year war in Münster in 1648. But to reach this goal – shalom for the world – is still a long way to go. But it’s a process where everyone is responsible. What did I do for bringing shalom to the world today? What did you do? One possible guideline is the so called Golden Rule which you find in every one of the big religions and faith traditions. “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.” This sentence can be a guideline for our way to shalom. In a world where everyone would treat others as he or she wants to be treated by others no one suffers from violence. In such a world, everyone can tell his or her opinion. In such a world, the different nations and religions work together making the world a better place instead of fighting each other. In such a world, there would be peace in every family, community and the whole world. In such a world there would be shalom. From my point of view this is a goal we should try to reach, even if it seems impossible.

Interfaith dialogue and Peace: 3 examples

So, what could interfaith dialogue do to spread shalom all over the world. I’m having a look at three examples.

From the time of the reformation until the middle of the last century Germany was religiously divided into parts with mainly protestant and parts with mainly catholic population. If someone protestant wanted to marry someone catholic or the other way around they had to decide which religion they wanted to have. They could not be “a mixed couple”. The people from the other denomination weren’t accepted as “true Christians”. And even inside Protestantism it was the same way between Calvinists and Lutheran Christians. That wasn’t a big problem as long as people normally stayed at the same place their entire live. Probably a protestant Lutheran farmer in this time never met a Catholic or Calvinist person. After the industrialisation people got more mobile and it was easier to move to another part of the country and the population got mixed. This blending of the religious denominations increased a lot when after the second world war millions of Germans had to live their home in the former parts of eastern Germany which today belong to Poland or the Czech Republic. When I was training to become a minister, I met a lot of people who had been refugees from these areas when they were children. They told me how difficult it was for example to come to a mainly catholic area as a protestant. The other children were not allowed to play with them and in school they got bad marks only because they belonged to another faith. During the last 60 years the religious differences between Catholics and Protestants and between the different protestant groups became much less important. Today it’s very usual that there are “mixed” families and in many towns and villages Protestants and Catholics work together very well. Even if the relationship is not without tensions so did the dialogue in the last 60 years bring people together who couldn’t have lived together the 500 years before. Maybe this dialogue between different Christian denominations has not brought complete shalom – but it brought shalom to many families and communities and it helped to bring peace to one of the most violent areas in Europe. I think there are examples of this kind of dialogue and reconciliation in Scotland and other parts of the world as well. I hope that the different religions continue the way they started and bring peace to more and more families, communities and countries.

The next example is from Germany as well. During my time at university I lived in a student dormitory for five years. This dormitory was provided by the protestant church and the chaplain was the director of the dormitory but it had an international, ecumenical and interfaith profile. Half of the inhabitants is always from abroad and half is from Germany. Half is male half is female. All were living together in fife corridors. During one semester, I shared my corridor with people from Nepal, Morocco, Syria Ukraine, China, Poland and Germany. Amongst the people from Syria there were Kurdish people as well as Arab Muslims and Arab Christians and the war in Syria had already started. From time to time we met for a big meal together and everybody brought something from his home and we shared it together. In this moment, we nearly forgot about all the differences and tensions. Maybe my flatmates from Syria could forget the sorrow for their families at least for a short moment. It was not important if someone was a Christian, a Muslim, a Zoroastrian, a Hindu or a non-believer it was not important if someone was male or female, it was not important if someone was German, Polish, Ukrainian, Moroccan, Chinese, Arab or Kurdish. We were just together as friends sharing food, drinks, time and joy. For me it was possible to feel the shalom, the complete peace in this moments. If we want to learn something from this about how to build peace it might be, that it’s important to bring people together, to share food with each other and to respect each other. I think many religious groups and charity organisations are doing this and I hope they continue and increase their work.

The third and last example is from the work of Interfaith Scotland. You all know about the difficult political situation in Ukraine. But maybe you are not aware about the strong religious tensions which go ahead with this conflict – I wasn’t aware of it anyway. The two national churches the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church have big tensions between them since the end of the Soviet Union. In both cases religious differences are connected and mixed with nationalistic thinking and the conflict and war of the last years has made it impossible that the leaders of the churches speak to each other. Anyway this summer the Director of Interfaith Scotland went with some other dialogue experts to Ukraine and they had one week to learn how to speak to each other. They learned some methods of dialogue, for example sharing stories which were very emotional and to talk about important texts they have in common as the beatitudes from the gospel of Matthew. Of course, this one week won’t bring peace to Ukraine directly but it’s the start to a process and it’s giving some hope that it’s possible to build peace even in such countries as in Ukraine.

Many conflicts in the world are connected with religious differences and often it seems impossible to solve them. Ukraine is one example, Syria and Iraq are others. But if I have a look on the process of peacebuilding and reconciliation in Germany and Western Europe since the second world war and if I remember my experiences in the student dormitory I have the hope to get peace there one day in the future.

What do you think when you hear the word “peace”? I think about shalom and all the steps that are necessary to take for us as human beings and for all the different religious groups and faiths.

Thank you!

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Remember, Remember …

When I wander through Glasgow I see places of remembrance all over the city. Especially soldiers from the World Wars have their monuments on many places – often marked with the symbol of the poppy. There are a lot of War monuments in Germany too, with long lists of names. Maybe I’m wrong but when I see the monuments here I have the feeling that people here have a more positive attitude towards their fallen soldiers, than in Germany. The monuments speak about them as heroes, who served their country bravely. This experience makes me thinking about remembering and remembrance culture today.

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On Monday people in the United States but also in Europe and in many other countries will remember the terror attack of 9/11. I assume everyone – at least in the Western countries – who was old enough in 2001 is remembering what he or she did the day when the planes hit in into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. People will remember the victims with religious services, with silence and tears. The terror attack on 9/11 and all terror attacks before and after this date are awful and turned innocent people to victims of violence.  It is good to remember them – especially for all the people who lost people they loved. But I’m also afraid of this remembering culture, especially if the actual US president is going ta talk at this day. Will he use the victims to produce more hate and violence? And who is remembering all the (innocent) victims of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which followed 9/11? How can people or states remember without producing more enemies?

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Von UA_Flight_175_hits_WTC_south_tower_9-11.jpeg: Flickr user TheMachineStops (Robert J. Fisch)derivative work: upstateNYer – UA_Flight_175_hits_WTC_south_tower_9-11.jpeg, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11786300

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About one week ago I participated at the first planning meeting for Holocaust Memorial Day 2018. The official Scottish event for this Day is going to be held in Glasgow this time. The planning was good and I’m sure it will be a good event. Some days later two friends from Germany visited me in Glasgow. I told them about Holocaust Memorial Day and they were very surprised that this day is not only about remembering the Holocaust but also about remembering different other genocides, eg. in Rwanda or Bosnia. Our shared feeling was that it is very difficult to do so, because from our (German) perspective the Holocaust is different. We could not imagine that Jews would accept that the Holocaust is compared or put on the same level as other historical occasions. For me and presumably the most Germans remembering the Holocaust means remembering it as a singularity, it means remembering the German guilt, it means especially remembering the suffering of Jews, even if also Disabled, LGBT, Roma and Communists were killed in the Konzentration Camps. It means that no other occasion in history is comparable with it and it means to do everything to prevent that such things are happening again.

For me it’s interesting that people in Scotland can have a more general look at the Holocaust. I’m completely convinced that the victims of Screbrenica and Rwanda must also be remembered. But it’s difficult for me to compare their dying to Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

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The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin Von K. Weisser – Selbst fotografiert, CC BY-SA 2.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12313104

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The 11th September is a special day of remembrance in my hometown Darmstadt. At night time of this day all church bells in the town are ringing. Not because of the terror attacks in the United States in 2001, but because of the bombing of Darmstadt by the Royal Airforce in 1944. 99% of the city centre were destroyed. According to official numbers about 12.000 people were killed and about 66.000 people became homeless. Remembering this attack is very difficult, because people are aware that without the bombing of Germany cities and towns it would be harder to stop Hitler and the Nazis, but it also might have killed much more people, especially women and children, than might be necessary to win the war. From my point of view a remembrance culture which cries about the victims but is also aware about the responsibility to prevent the world from another World War, another Holocaust or another 9/11 is the only appropriate way of remembering.

Remembering is never unpolitical and we all are responsible for the remembrance culture in our town, country and our world.

What do you think? How do you remember?

Refugees and faith

Last Saturday the first Weekend Club in my time in Scotland took place. The Weekend Club is an Interfaith Glasgow project, where volunteers and refugees and asylum seekers spend an afternoon together. There are always foods and drinks and some kind of an official programme. Sometimes the group goes on a trip somewhere in Scotland, sometimes they learn something about Scottish history and culture and sometimes they do something about different faith traditions or religious feasts.

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This time the event was mainly about discussion some questions. The questions came from the Scottish government, which wants to explore how refugees and asylum seekers feel at the moment, what should change from their point of view and what they could do about it. These questions were discussed in small groups and the answers of the refugees and asylum seekers were (anonymously) written down and will be send to the government.

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It was very interesting to hear and read about how the refugees and asylum seekers are experiencing their time in Scotland. My feeling is, that although I came as a “stranger” to this country only about two months ago and not everything is easy for me as well, their life is much more difficult than mine. As asylum seekers they are not sure about their status and if they are allowed to stay in this country. They are not allowed to work and their children have difficulties to get accepted at good schools or universities. As refugees and asylum seekers they often have difficulties to learn the language and don’t know much about the rules and the culture in this country. They face racism and discrimination.

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In my opinion its good, that the government asks the questions about the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland. I don’t know enough about the politics and the system of how refugees and asylum seekers are treated to have an own opinion about if the government does enough or the right things for refugees and asylum seekers.

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What I realized when I read all the notes from the different discussion groups was that the topic of “faith” or “religion” was not mentioned at all. That could be because none of the questions asked about this topic. It could be because not everybody is religious. It could also be because if you are struggling with organising your daily life after you had to leave your country because of violence, war or hunger maybe faith is not the most important topic to deal with.

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I am not sure, but normally I would suggest that faith is an important topic for at least some of the refugees and asylum seekers (at least on the same level of importance as for non-refugees and asylum seekers). Especially if you are in a foreign country with a different culture your faith can become more important than it has been in your homeland, because the faith is something you can carry with you. And if I have a look at the important figures in the different faith traditions – as for example Moses, Jesus, Mohamed, the Sikh Gurus or Bahá’u’lláh – I see a lot of persons who have been refugees themselves or have faced discrimination, persecution and violence by different authorities. From my point of view the powerful life-stories of these persons can help you, if you go through difficult times yourself. And I suppose that having at least one area of life (faith), where you don’t have to struggle can even help you to settle and to integrate in a foreign society. So I really hope that the refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland, Europe and all over the world not only must think about healthcare, housing and employment but that they have a faith which supports them and helps them finding their way.

Creativity and the Arts

The last weeks one important part of my work was the preparation of resources for this years Scottish Interfaith Week. This year’s theme for Scottish Interfaith Week is “Creativity and the Arts”.

I must admit, when I first heard about this theme, I wasn’t very euphoric. I’ve never been very well in doing arts on my own and although I like going to museums and sometimes galleries art is not my main area of interest and art and music classes in school were one of those I liked less.

But during the last weeks, while exploring the diversity of religious art, I realised that looking on religious art might be a good way for learning about a religious tradition.

Here are two examples:

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By 柑橘類 (talk) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20077857
Buddha_in_Sarnath_Museum_(Dhammajak_Mutra)
Von พระมหาเทวประภาส วชิรญาณเมธี (ผู้ถ่าย-ปล่อยสัญญาอนุญาตภาพให้นำไปใช้ได้เพื่อการศึกษาโดยอยู่ภา่ยใต้ cc-by-sa-3.0)ผู้สร้างสรรค์ผลงาน/ส่งข้อมูลเก็บในคลังข้อมูลเสรีวิกิมีเดียคอมมอนส์ – เทวประภาส มากคล้าย – Tevaprapas Makklay (พระมหาเทวประภาส วชิรญาณเมธี), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7004539

Why are these to Buddha statues so different? They were made in different times, different countries and from people belonging to different Buddhist traditions. One is from India in the time of the Gupta Empire (320-550 CE) and one is from Japan and was made in 1981.

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By Jörg Bittner Unna – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46476422

Why is Moses often showed horned in Western Christian tradition? If people look eg at the statue of Moses made by Michelangelo they might think Moses looks like the devil. But that’s not what the artist wanted to say. He just followed the Latin Art tradition. Christians in the middleages read the Bible (if they could read) in the Latin translation, the Vulgate. In this bible translation a Hebrew word, which literally means something like “shining” is translated by a Latin word meaning “horned”. L looking at this statue can tell you a lot about the complicated history of Christians and Jews using the same scriptures as their holy book in translating them in different languages, cultures and traditions.

From my point of view looking on different art traditions during Scottish Interfaith Week can improve the knowledge about the different traditions. There is a lot more to explore about Paintings, statues, Architecture, stories, poems, music, dances and so on!

If you are interested in attending some events during Scottish Interfaith Week or maybe hosting an event on your own or if you just want to know more about Scottish Interfaith week have a look on its brand-new website!

Interfaith Comedy

This week I had a good meeting with EIFA (Edinburgh Interfaith Association). After the meeting, I took the opportunity to experience the festival atmosphere. One of the shows I saw had an interfaith background. Its title was “2 religions – 1 comedy show”. The two comedians, Henry Churniavsky and Joe Bains, have a Jewish and a Sikh background. Their experiences as parts of religious and ethnic minorities were the main topic of their show and the audience had a very diverse background as well. From my point of view, it was a great show and it was kind of a dialogue event.

Interfaith comedy is not a classical method of interfaith dialogue. Jokes about religious topics are always a bit difficult, because people get offended very easily. One example for (maybe) failed religious satire might be the caricatures about Mohammed at the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005, which were followed by protest in many countries.

Can comedy about religious be a way for a better understanding between religions? That’s difficult to answer, but I suppose in some cases it can and I have an example from my own experience: The protestant student congregation/chaplaincy in Münster has an exchange programme with Western Galilee College in Akko in Israel. This college is special because it’s students have Jewish, Arab-Christian, Arab-Muslim and Drusian background. In 2012, I joined a group of students from this college on their trip to Münster and Berlin. During this journey, most of the Muslim and Jewish participants visited houses of worship of the other believe (mosques and synagogues) and Christian churches for the first time of their live. In Berlin, we visited amongst other sights the Holocaust memorial site, the KZ Sachsenhausen and the house of the “Wannsee Conference”. I know that in these days me and the other German participants of the group felt very bad visiting all these places of collective German guilt. One evening in a room at the hostel where we stayed one of the Jewish students made a joke. It was spontaneous and it included the words “Germany” and “gas” and probably not very politically correct but in this situation, it was the best what could happen. Suddenly everyone in the room, independent of his ethnic or religious background, was smiling and laughing. This joke and the laugh broke the ice between us and it made us one group and it made the common visits to the different religious and historical sights much easier.

This situation showed me that in some cases even a bad joke can be a basis for dialogue. That means not, that people who want to start an interfaith dialogue should go around and make jokes about religions and the Holocaust, but sometimes humour and jokes can help to a better understanding between different groups. I think it is important to see who makes the jokes about what and how the relationship between the different persons is. In my example, it was a young Jewish man who made the joke and I’m not sure, if it would have the same effect if the joke was made by a one of the Germans or Arabs. There even was already an atmosphere of trust and knowing about each other in the group. We had already spent some days together and knew about the others and the joke showed everyone that we trusted each other and that we accepted each other with our whole history and religion.

That means: From my point of view Comedy can be a good way to deepen relationships if there already is an atmosphere of trust. Often it is a big difference if the joke about a religion is made by a believer of this religion himself or by someone else.  Interfaith dialogue is dialogue about very serious topics, but dialogue is getting easier, if we don’t take ourselves so serious that it’s getting impossible to laugh about ourselves.

And so, I want to finish this blog post with a quote by Stephen Colbert in a Parade interview 23th September 2007:

“Not living in fear is a great gift, because certainly these days we do it so much. And do you know what I like about comedy? You can’t laugh and be afraid at the same time — of anything. If you’re laughing, I defy you to be afraid. “

The long way to peace between faiths

This week I visited the local interfaith group in fife. They told me about their activities and we discussed how Interfaith Scotland could support their work. One thing they told me was that they built a peace garden in the large park in Kirkcaldy. The project needed a lot of resources and it took about 4 years until it was finished in 2012. Even if I couldn’t visit the garden it is good to know, that there is a place where all the different religions are calling for peace in the world. Hearing about the peace garden made me think about all the conflicts which have existed and still exists between the different faiths. And I started thinking about how religious groups, which have been enemies for a long time, can become peaceful partners.

I know at least one example where that happened after a nearly 2.000 years history of persecution. I’m from Germany and a protestant Christian, so the example comes from the history of my own faith. In the so called New Testament (a part of the Christian Bible) there are scripture which have very strong anti-Jewish tendencies. From a historical point of view that’s completely understandable because the first Christians split up from the Jewish community and there were a lot of conflicts between both religious groups during the first centuries of their common history. After Christianity became the main religion of the Roman Empire Christians had the possibility to supress Jews and they did it because of the anti-Jewish tendency in the New Testament. Not all Christians did this but over the centuries it became a common sense in Christian theology that Jews were the “enemies of God”. During the middle-ages and the modern times it continuously came to pogroms against Jews in the Christian areas of the world. Even great Christian theologians such as Martin Luther the “founder” of Protestantism had strong anti-Jewish opinions. During the 19th century the theological antijudaism became an important radix for antisemitism.  Even if the first Christians and the Christian theologians during 2000 years of Christian history are not directly responsible for the gas chambers in Auschwitz, so have they prepared the way for it. Even if there were Christians in Germany during to Nazi regime who fought against Hitler and the Nazis most of the Christians did not and during the Weimar Republic the most Nazi supporting areas in Germany were those which were traditional protestant. After the war, the protestant church in Germany (and in other western countries as well) started slowly to change their theological thinking about Jews. They remembered all the things these two faiths have in common and the shared believes.

Today in the protestant church in Germany it is a real no-go to say that Jews must become Christians to be in a relationship to god. The Jewish faith is accepted as an equal way to god – not only because of political and historical reasons but even for theological ones too. The most important step on the way from persecuting and killing Jews to accepting them as equal partners was that the Christian churches admitted their guilt for the persecution of Jews. My (regional) church where I am going to work as minister from next summer changed its basic article in 1991. This text is the basis for everything what happens in the church. Every minister in the church is getting ordained on this article. Since 1991 the article ends with two new sentences:

“For blindness and guilt called for repentance, she (the church) again testifies to the permanent election of the Jews and God’s covenant with them. The confession of Jesus Christ includes this testimony.” ( „Aus Blindheit und Schuld zur Umkehr gerufen bezeugt sie (die EKHN) neu die bleibende Erwählung der Juden und Gottes Bund mit ihnen. Das Bekenntnis zu Jesus Christus schließt dieses Zeugnis ein.“)

I think it is not usual that a religious group has the permanent election of another religious group as one of their main articles of believe but it gives me hope. It gives me the hope that the different religious faiths can accept another as equal partners without a repeating of the history between Christians and Jews. It would mean that Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Bahais and all the other faiths would confess everything they done to each other. It would mean that they admit their guilt and that they forgive each other. Maybe it’s idealistic but I hope it will happen. I think this is a task for every believer and everyone can do something for this. The “normal people” can try to build good relationships to their neighbours from different faiths. Have a chat when they meet, ask how they feel, let their children play together… The theologians must rethink their theological positions towards each other. The example of the Christian-Jewish relationship shows me that this is possible, even if it is a long and difficult journey.

What do you think? Is peace and reconciliation between the religions possible?

 

If I write about the “protestant church in Germany” I mean the EKD. If I write about “my (regional) church I mean the EKHN.

Interfaith Dialogue – a uncontroversial topic?!

Two weeks ago I was a part of a delegation from Interfaith Scotland who visited the Church of Scotland’s National Youth Assembly 2017 in Gartmore. The National Youth Assembly (NYA) is a platform for young adults in the church of Scotland where they discuss different topics and the future of their church. It was a pleasure to meet so many young people who engage themselves for their faith and the society.

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Saturday evening at the youth assembly the young adults participated in a workshop about interfaith. After a short introduction about what interfaith dialogue is about and about Interfaith Scotland they could meet representatives from the Baha’i, Sikh and Muslim Faith and play a game where they had to relate different religious objects to respective faith. For nearly all of them it was the first time they (wittingly) talked to a Baha’i and a Sikh and for some of them it was the first time they talked to a Muslim as well. When we sat together in the evening or during the meals many of the youths told me, that for them interfaith was the most interesting topic during the NYA, because they did know so little about it before.

 

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The next day Mirella, Church of Scotland’s Interfaith officer, hold a talk about interfaith dialogue from a Christian perspective. After this the participants of the NYA discussed the topic in small groups. I could participate in one of the groups and had the feeling that everyone was very open to interfaith dialogue. The questions that where discussed where among others “What does good interfaith dialogue look like?”, “How can Christians be better in Interfaith dialogue?”, “What can we offer at dialogue?”, “What should the Church of Scotland be doing?”, “What can we do locally?” and “Are there problematic attitudes and events in the past who are connected to interfaith and what can we do about them?”. After the discussions in the small groups the different questions were discussed again in the large plenum.

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I was happy about but even a bit surprised that there hardly weren’t any critical voices about interfaith dialogue. From discussions with young Christian adults in Germany (theologians and no-theologians) I remember much more scepticism about giving up Christian values or fundamentals. From my former experiences, I would have expected to hear a (loud) minority who felt that dialogue maybe might be a good way to proselytize Non-Christians but not a dialogue at eye level. But in the discussion at the NYA no one referred to such sentences as John 14,16 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.“ to prove that interfaith dialogue might not be a “good Christian thing”.

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I was very (positively) surprised that (nearly) everybody seemed to see interfaith dialogue as an important way of making our society more peaceful and just. For the most of the NYA delegates it seemed to be clear that the Church of Scotland should do much more in interfaith work than they actually do. I hope that many of these young adults stay engaged in their church and always remember their positive attitude towards interfaith dialogue, so that there is a strong voice for interfaith work inside the Church of Scotland, other Christian denominations and other faith traditions. What do you think about interfaith dialogue? Is it as easy as it seems for the young adults or do you see any problems? Feel free to leave a comment!

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