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Interfaith dialogue is missing the point

Apr 27,2019 - Last updated at Apr 27,2019

The recent attack on church goers in the capital city of Sri Lanka, Colombo, on Easter Sunday that killed over 250 of them and injured no less than 400, paints a horrific and painful picture of the deep-rooted animosity between religions, including those which belong to same monotheistic faiths.

That was not the first time that worshippers have been attacked and killed, nor would it be the last. In March of this year, a hateful attack on Muslim worshippers in the New Zealand city of Christchurch killed 50 of them for no reason other than because they belong to Islam. Similar attacks on worshippers of different faiths occurred quite regularly in Egypt, where scores of attacks were perpetrated against Coptic Christians. Muslims were repeatedly gunned down by enemies of Islam in many parts of the world, including at Al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem.

These waves of religious violence are not projected to decrease. If anything, they are expected to increase as fanatics and extremists belonging to different religions continue to vent their anger and hostility to people belonging to different faiths.

Interfaith dialogue as a phenomenon has been pursued by various nations but with no avail. As recently as last January, HRH Prince Hassan, chairperson of the board of trustees of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies and whose name has been associated with interfaith dialogue for decades now, delivered a speech at a symposium organised by the Institute of International Political Studies in Rome, calling for more action to promote interfaith dialogue. Prince Hassan is internationally known as a main pillar of this dialogue. Similar calls have been echoed over the past decades, yet, with no apparent impact on interfaith harmony and coexistence in peace and tolerance. It seems that hostility between the three monotheistic faiths run deep and deeper than first thought, despite the continuous efforts of defeat it and channel it into a more constructive and cooperative dialogue.

The problem facing the champions of interfaith dialogue is the proposition that their callings have failed to filter down to the grass-roots level of societies of religions that are at war with one another. The rank and file faithfuls belonging to various global faiths have yet to be reached out or impacted by the existing sophisticated interfaith dialogue.

The people who must be targeted by interfaith messages are simply left behind, with no apparent effort to include them in the process of the dialogue between the three monotheistic faiths. The people who perpetrate attacks on members of other religions have hardly heard of interfaith dialogue; much less impacted by it.

This leads to one simple conclusion: Interfaith dialogue needs to get down to grass-roots level of people, starting with schools at the most elementary levels and continuing to higher education. The champions of interfaith dialogue need to address the problem at the grass-roots level and not direct their preaching to the already converted people among followers of other religions. This could be the only effective way to correct the paths of religions, and make them more peaceful and cooperative towards one another.

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