Monday, June 16, 2003

The Interfaith Movement and the Launch of the Roadmap

Frank Kaufmann
June 16, 2003

Recent world events awoke the average lay person to the wisdom and necessity of interreligious dialogue. Professionals in the field enjoyed a new environment in which they no longer were met with confused disinterest when sharing their lives with strangers in planes and ariports. Instead they are met with appreciation and admiration. “Huh?” was replaced with “Lord knows we certainly need that.”

As with much of the positive change in the wake of 9-11 (such as heightened social awareness, and restored humanness), newcomers’ enthusiasm for interreligious dialogue also dulled a bit as time went on.

This dulling of the temporary spike in appreciation of interfaith does not bring us back to pre 9-11 levels of unknowing. Events brought new development to the movement, some good, some bad.

The good development is that there has arisen a lot more interfaith activity since 9-11. This has (at least) two benefits: 1. Interfaith projects, events, and awareness has moved far deeper into the grass roots (this is long overdue), and 2. The increase yields a much more variegated landscape,so that many more creative and innovative ideas for approaching interreligious problems and challenges are cropping up. Each new project tends to bear the signature of the leading visionary acting under inspiration.

The negatives include the fact that a sudden but relatively untrained interest (in a world of increasing superficiality and impatience), coupled with the inability of the interfaith movement to produce recognizable results in the world’s most watched, religious trouble-spots (such as Israel) create the danger that the public will return to its prior dismissal and disinterest in the interfaith movement, only more dangerously this time, not merely from ignorance, bit from a conscious and deliberate assessment of the ineffectiveness of the movement. Thus the interfaith movement stands at an important crossroads.

I believe the warm glow will last long enough to produce some fiscal solace by matching the over wealthy with the over needy, but this too will meet rough roads ahead if the interfaith movement does not find a way to do more than assuage the givers social conscience, and instead start to produce some tangible progress in the world of interreligious relations. Very few fundamentally new ideas are coming forth. To benefit from events without taking responsibility for one’s failures, including even those which led up to the very horrifying events themselves is to chase fools gold.