Origins of Organised Inter-Faith Activity
- As alternatives to the word “inter-faith”, one can find the use of “multi-faith” or “inter-religious”.
- Whilst there are sometimes concerns that closer relationships between different religions will lead to a “syncretism” which blurs the distinctiveness of each religion, in the contemporary pluralist world, many see positive inter-faith relations as a necessity for global survival and for the integrity of each religion.
- Modern, organised, inter-faith activity began with the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893.
- Another early initiative was the Religions of the Empire Conference, organised by Sir Denison Ross in 1924
- In 1936, Sir Francis Younghusband organised the World Congress of Faiths (which eventually became an inter-faith organisation that is currently still active)
Kinds of Inter-Faith Activity
- Inter-faith activity can have a variety of motives, including:
- a means towards social harmony and friendship
- a means to secure greater social and religious acceptance
- an obligation of one’s own religion
- a desire to share the riches of one’s own tradition with others
- the importance of better understanding of other religious traditions
- a hope for closer growth together of the religions
- Some inter-faith activity is primarily individual; some is “representative” of the traditions that are participating.
- Some inter-faith activity is specificlly oriented towards social and political issues, some is focused more on prayer and meditation.
- Some is bi-lateral (eg. Jewish-Christian); some is tri-lateral (eg. Jewish, Christian, Muslim); some iss multi-lateral.
- At local levels, there are a whole range and variety of organisations known as either “groups”, “councils” or “fellowships”, as appropriate to their membership and activities.
Written by Professor Paul Weller