Today I want to share an impressive interfaith story with you and reflect a bit about what good dialogue means.
Two weeks ago, I visited Aberdeen and one person I met there was a local imam. The place of the mosque where we met is very special, because it’s build on the same property as a church. Already this is not very usual and interesting because most congregations probably would not accept to build a mosque on their ground. But the story gets even more interesting. Not only that there have been common projects between the two faith communities on their shared ground but even more.
When the number of people attending the prayers in the mosque grew more and more the building was to small so people started to pray outside the building. When the people from the church realised this, they invited the Muslims to pray inside the church. In the following times the mosque building was enlarged is now directly connected to the church building, and so one side part of the church building became a part of the mosque and there are common shared rooms for example for celebrations or meetings as well.
Here are some pictures of the building:
If you want to know more about the story with the church and the mosque have a look here.
The chat with the imam was very interesting, because he told us this story in detail and then a real interfaith dialogue was developed. My colleague Frances from Interfaith Scotland – she is a Christian as well – and I had the feeling we could ask the imam everything and he could ask us everything as well. There was a foundation of trust for our talk and there was also a good general knowledge about the two religions on both sides. Because of that we could really go deep into the discussion about similarities and differences between Christian and Muslim faith. When we had to leave, because it was time for the next meeting, I would have liked to stay longer and to continue the interesting chat.
From my point of view the story of the mosque and the church in Aberdeen show a lot about good dialogue. Good dialogue is like a good neighbourhood – In the beginning you don’t know much about each other and have maybe just some ideas and prejudice about the other. The important step in this phase is to meet each other and to get each other from face to face. Only in personal meetings you can overcome your prejudice or explore the “true core” of them. Getting to know each other in personal meetings is an important step for a better understanding of each other it’s the foundation for every kind of deeper dialogue. This kind of dialogue should be important for everyone – even if someone is not interested in a deeper kind of dialogue – because it prevents people from misunderstandings and conflicts.
The next step of dialogue is building trust. This can be very difficult, but it’s important. Only if you trust each other you can endure different opinions between you and your dialogue partner. And only if there is trust between dialogue partners you can have real discussions – even about controversy topics. On this level of dialogue, you realise what the dialogue partners have in common and which views they share.
The third (and maybe last) step of dialogue is from my point of view the most interesting, but also most difficult one. On this level you can discuss the theological difficult topics between religions. And in my opinion, it is important not to skip these topics because it might feel uncomfortable to talk about differences, whether they might be real differences between faith communities or they can be solved during a deep discussion.
What is the goal of these three steps and of Interfaith dialogue? Well in the end that’s for the dialogue partners to decide. But from my point of view it’s about getting to know each other as good as possible and – where possible – to learn from each other.
Do you think dialogue might work in this way or do you have a different opinion? Feel free to contact me and to tell me your opinion!