All Believers puts trust in dialogue
All Believers Network will assemble this Labor Day, a holiday that salutes those who work.
Wholesome interreligious dialogue is work. Labor also refers to bringing new life into the world, genuine work that is also genuinely worthy of the result.
We are laboring for the peace that surpasses understanding, for the respect that draws strength from appreciation and for the bonding of the community of believers in our diverse religious community. That's what a network means.
All Believers Network strives consciously and sincerely to open hearts, minds, eyes and ears to see the other as they see themselves, to hear their descriptions in the first person as authentic and informative.
Our Monday symposium at Honpa Hongwanji Buddhist temple in Nuuanu will give the community an opportunity to share in our effort.
It is a basic principle of interreligious conversations that the dialogue partners have to embrace the "di" of dialogue. It is a two-way process calling the partners not only to express themselves, but also to deeply hear the other and represent that experience in words that the other understands. There is no room for proselytizing or drawing the other into one's own belief system. That's not a network, that's a trap!
What makes the All Believers Network different from any other organization? It all boils down to prepositions. We are talking "with" believers and practitioners, not talking "about" different religions from a distance.
The group has been meeting for almost five years, on the last Tuesday evening each month, at various places. It gathers now at the First Unitarian Church. After three years of speakers sharing their personal views, the monthly program morphed into dyads, two individuals responding to a single topic.
These diverse pairs bring together individuals sharing from both their experience and their sacred texts, which animate their practice. So how does the virtue of courage or humility or integrity or forgiveness play out in the teachings and practice of a Christian and a Buddhist, or a Bahai and a Hindu, a Jain and a Jew?
New insights? You'd better believe it! And that's where the respect, the expansion of appreciation and the diminishment of prejudgment grows to make a community of the listeners, all the believers growing in their network.
Today's world has certainly misrepresented the latest of the three Abrahamic faiths. Jews and Christians in previous centuries have known such pejorative judgments. Now the Muslims are caught in internal and external descriptions, which affect both the current and the future generations of believers.
Even the All Believers Network has to struggle with its responses in the community, described by those who have never attended a meeting but portray the organization in terms that are far from accurate.
It is a long process to expand appreciation, to strengthen respect and to celebrate the gifts of faith, belief and commitment, which are the coin of the realm for each and every religious tradition.
University of Chicago history of religions professor Martin Marty has often said, "No one practices a religion because they deem it faulty or unworthy of the respect of others."
Sister Joan Chatfield, a member of the Maryknoll religious order, is executive director of the Institute for Religion and Social Change.