Worldwide Discussion in Online Forums Inspires Local Work in Chile
Kenton Dunbar of Copiapó, Chile, was deeply inspired by an excerpt from Richard Landau’s article “What the World Needs to Know about Interfaith Dialogue,” which explained the necessity of setting an agenda for social action in the form of interfaith dialogue.
My belief that interfaith dialogue is an important level of community activity has been not only reaffirmed but greatly increased, as has the need for sensitivity and insight in the organizing and development aspects of the activity.
Probably the most important point I learned, at least for me or us here in this religious environment (Copiapó, Chile), both as a result of the readings and interchange with various students and mentors, is the critical importance of setting the agenda for interfaith dialogue. Landau’s article and especially Barney Leith’s posts with respect to agenda setting were extremely helpful, and I am certain they have saved our community here a lot of frustration and confusion, as well as some “ka-booms” as we enter into this arena of activity.
Always avoid contentious issues in setting the agenda, and never assume there is universal agreement on issues of universal concern. Landau’s list is very instructive: protection of the environment, the equality of the races, the equality of men and women, care of the poor, international cooperation, human rights, hunting and animal rights, and others.
Landau asks for discipline, depth of understanding of the participants’ religious vision, and certainly empathy so as be able to organize an effective agenda and enable the maximum articulation of thought and feeling while maintaining controlled focus so as not to open dialogue to contention and dispute.
I find this distance-learning experience through the Wilmette Institute’s study program very effective, and I will be enrolling in future courses. It is an excellent way to deepen in the writings on a personal spiritual level, and the student/mentor interaction by way of the posting process is very inspirational. I like the posting process, too, because it greatly expands the dimensions of the course material and broadens the learning experience significantly.
My attitude toward interfaith dialogue, as a result of this course, has taken on a new level of sensitivity and respect. I know now for certain that it is not a level of community activity to be taken lightly, and our Spiritual Assembly, I am sure, will have no problem seeking and soliciting the necessary guidance and assistance from those here in Chile who have worked in this field of service.
I feel much more comfortable interacting with my Baha’i peers, and now friends, on topics such as the one we just completed (ever completed?). I began the course feeling quite inadequate, still do to some extent, but as we developed dialogue through the posting process I found that I could almost keep up with some of the thinking articulated—truly the depth and breadth of many of the comments expressed by the participants were outstanding, to say the very least! The historical perspectives on Christianity as well as the psychological and spiritual dimensions, and limitations, of theological discourse presented here were very helpful.
Certainly there is an increased awareness as a result of our close reading of the House of Justice’s letter to the religious leaders of the world as to the urgency of our making constant efforts to establish interfaith dialogue so as (1) to come to a clearer understanding of the different religions with which we interact, (2) to make friends and establish spiritually and socially meaningful relationships with our coreligionists, and (3) to move forward the urgency of the agenda of reestablishing religion to its rightful place in the world so it provides the moral and ethical impetus necessary to restoring some sense of sanity to the world in which we live.