Consorting with Followers of All Religions with Confidence

Preparing for Interfaith Dialogue 2019
Faculty: Ted Brownstein, JoAnn Borovicka, Anne Pearson

“Bahá’u’lláh,” Shoghi Effendi has written, “exhorts His followers to consort, with amity and concord and without discrimination, with the adherents of all religions.” This year the Wilmette Institute course Preparing for Interfaith Dialogue 2019, took a new turn to help make that action easier. The faculty revised the course to help Bahá’ís participate in interfaith activities with greater confidence and to start their own interfaith activities. Comments by two learners on two continents show how quickly the new approach enabled them to do both: move out of their comfort zones to attend and participate in interfaith activities and also to start their own interfaith groups.

Colin DibdinNew South Wales, Australia. Colin Dibdin, from Rosebery, New South Wales, Australia, took Preparing for Interfaith Dialogue because he “always had a passion for interfaith dialogue.” Now that he has finished the course he says he has “more confidence and direction” and “feels a greater unity with people of other faiths.” What made the difference? Colin shares his several learnings:

The materials and activities helped me to understand some “rules” of interfaith dialogue. My capacity for learning from others has increased as I have become less eager to (mis)use such forums for teaching, and the course has spurred me to share the information with others and look for opportunities to practice interfaith dialogue.

Some of my understandings and insights have changed. For example, the different form of dialogue is clearer to me; the insights of practitioners and experts, both academic and in the videos, were inspirational; and with the help of faculty members I now have a clearer idea of how to engage constructively with other religions.

My most improved skill is the ability to listen better. One of the Scarboro Missions resources is about listening. I have always considered myself to be a good listener, but this has helped me improve. Also my potential contribution to dialogue has become clearer when I focus on these questions drawn from the Bahá’í World News Service article “The evolving Baha’i perspective on interfaith dialogue,” par. 6–8:

    • What universal principles may be found in all faiths, and what can we learn from each other’s experiences applying them?
    • In what ways does religion have a vital and constructive role to play in the life of humanity?
    • How does religion address the challenging problems societies and nations face as well as broader societal well-being?

Colin concluded his summary of what he learned in the course on preparing for interfaith dialogue by summarizing the actions he is taking:

I have begun sharing the knowledge with others in small groups and applying it by visiting a friend’s church. I am looking for an interfaith group that I can join and also have started a very small interfaith group that will be bringing insights to a set of topics that the group is formulating.

Stacy KellerMinnesota, USA. Stacy Keller, from Stillwater, Minnesota, took Preparing for Interfaith Dialogue as her first course; she and her husband were part of a group. Like Colin, Stacy improved her listening skills: “I have appreciated learning through the readings and watching the videos, which have helped show the many possibilities and ease with which I can participate in meaningful dialogue.” As a result, she says that she feels “more confident and comfortable” about her “ability to engage in dialogue and to elevate conversations. Finding common ground. Feeling more committed!”

One insight that stood out for Stacy came from Unit 4 from the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales in 2010: “Meeting God in Friend & Stranger, Fostering respect and mutual understanding between the religions.” “What can we learn from each other,” she asked, “when we look at the commonalities found in all the religions? Fostering unity, promoting understanding and achieving common goals.”

Like Colin, Stacy ended by explaining how she is putting Preparing for Interfaith Dialogue to use:

I have already had the opportunity to mention this course to a few friends, and it has been very easy to elevate our conversations! My husband and I have hosted a neighborhood interfaith peace devotional in our home, and we are eager to continue this. I feel the need for interfaith dialogue and elevated conversations has never been greater. Our study group hopes to continue connecting and sharing thoughts and ideas that can be carried out individually as well as collectively. It’s exciting! I am so grateful to have been a part of this course.

Congratulations to these learners who have increased their skills for participating more successfully in the discourses of society and taking the further steps of continuing their existing interfaith meetings or creating new ones.

In 2019 the Wilmette Institute is offering five additional courses that are helpful in preparing learners for interfaith activities and honing skills. The dates following the course titles are the dates on which the courses start. Click here to access the catalogue for more information about the courses and registration links.

Exploring the New Testament (May 25, 2019)
Introduction to Islam (June 1, 2019)
Bahá’í Theology (June 5, 2019)
Hinduism for Deepening and Dialogue (September 10, 2019)
The Promise of World Peace (December 1, 2019)
Zoroastrianism for Deepening and Dialogue (December 9, 2019)
Christianity for Deepening and Dialogue (December 15, 2019)

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