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.
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.
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.
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”.
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!