I was happy to read Lord Inderjit Singh’s article that was forwarded by his brother Jagjit Singh entitled, “Combatting Religious Terrorism.” In my conversations with others, both outside my faith group and within my own Zarathushti (Zoroastrian) community, I often make the same arguments as Inderjit. I get pushbacks on my efforts to promote interfaith dialogue, with statements focusing on differences between religions, like, “Our concepts of God are not the same,” “Buddhists and Jains do not have a God,” “Only through my prophet can you be saved,” “Our religion is logical and some others are not,” etc.
I make the argument that if we focus on core ethical values such as truth, justice, compassion, charity, love, peace, etc., which are common in most religions, and also among atheists and agnostics who believe in living a peaceful life, we can learn more about each other’s beliefs, traditions, and celebrations through interfaith dialogue and build relationships based on factual knowledge and mutual respect, instead of ignorance, false stereotypes and superiority complexes which keep us apart. We do not have to give up our beliefs or agree on everything during interfaith dialogue, just keep an open mind to learn about each other.
Inderjit makes an important point, that most people who do take the first step of indulging in interfaith dialogue, stay limited to polite get-togethers and refreshments, but do not advance to asking difficult questions on vulnerable aspects of religious beliefs and/or do not take actions to speak out publicly or to politicians when any religious community is being victimized.
Having learned more about many aspects related to interfaith in core courses on Power and Privilege, Dialog, Collaboration, Change, Mindfulness, etc., during my master’s program in Interfaith Action at Claremont Lincoln University in Claremont, Calif., I can see the challenges that face advancement in genuine interfaith action.
In order to motivate community leaders, religious leaders, teachers, students, parents, politicians, and others to support interfaith involvement, we need to answer a common question, “What’s in it for me?” At the CONNECT conference organized by the North American Interfaith Network at U.C. San Diego in 2017, I had presented a talk on this topic and provided a list of practical suggestions that could motivate each of the categories of people I have listed above.
The Federation of Zoroastrian Associations has an Interfaith Activities Committee (of which I am a co-chair) that encourages interfaith involvement and participation in interfaith events and organizations, including the Parliament of World Religions, presenting talks on panels in collaboration with speakers of different religions at schools, places of worship, interfaith conferences, and contacting leaders at all levels in support of all victims of religious violence like the latest ethnic cleansing of Kurdish civilians by Turkey’s president in the city of Afrin in Syria.
Huntington Beach, Calif.