Although modern day interfaith relations and dialogue dates back officially to the first meeting of the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago in 1893, it has since September 11th become an area of avid growing interest. The purpose of this bibliographical essay is to survey some of the current texts and resources held by Camden Theological library in the area of interfaith dialogue that I have found useful both for my PhD research in interfaith relationships and dialogue and for ministry in the Australian context. Interfaith relations and dialogue is an exciting growing edge. It requires both a well thought out theology as well as the development of practical skills, awareness and a spirit of openness. This book list is in no way exhaustive, but it is a start in engaging with relevant interfaith issues, both practical and theological.
The meaning and method of interfaith dialogues are varied. At its most basic level interfaith dialogue is the meeting of people of different faiths who intentionally come together to talk about their faith and to deepen their understanding of the faith of the religious other. There are different types of dialogue and each will have a different objective. Leonard Swidler identifies three main categories: the cognitive which are the academic theological type of dialogues, the spiritual in which participants engage in the practices of each other’s faith tradition such as Buddhist mediation and the practical where communities of faiths work together to tackle a particular issue or project. Women have their own methods of dialogue and engagement although this is not widely documented. The following books offer a detailed discussion on the purpose and method of interfaith dialogue:
Egnell, H. (2006). Other Voices: a study of Christian feminist approaches to religious plurality East and West Upsalla: Studia Missionalia Svecana C.
Mays, R. K. (Ed.). (2008). Interfaith dialogue at the grass roots. Philadelphia: Ecumenical Press.
O’Neill, M. (2007). Mending a torn world: women in interreligious dialogue. Maryknoll: Orbis.
Race, A., & Hedges, P. (Eds.). (2008). Christian approaches to other faiths. London: SCM Press.
Wingate, A. (2005). Celebrating difference, staying faithful: how to live in a multifatih world. London: Darton Longman & Todd.
It is also very useful to place the discussion of interfaith dialogue historically and globally. Marcus Braybrooke has to date offered a comprehensive guide (1893-1992) to global interfaith dialogue. Braybrooke, M. (1992). Pilgrimage of hope: one hundred years of global interfaith dialogue. New York: Crossroad. Bharat, S., & Bharat, J. (2007). A global guide to interfaith: reflections from around the world. Winchester: O Books, is a survey of interfaith dialogue groups and projects. This book covers the gap of interfaith relations from 1992 to post September 11th. In addition, Forward, M. (2001). Inter-religious dialogue: a short introduction. Oxford: OneWorld, presents a theological and historical survey of interfaith dialogue drawing on his experience of the British Council of Churches and his experience of working in India. This book is helpful in that it integrates theology, history and practice of interfaith dialogue. The Quiet revolution by Peter Kirkwood, past producer of the ABC program Compass is an engaging and resourceful book for those wishing to know more about the interfaith movement and key thinkers in our current time. Kirkwood provides a good overview of interfaith relationships and dialogue post September 11th. Kirkwood surveys the key literature, thinkers and organisations thereby making this book a key introductory text to the global interfaith movement. Kirkwood, P. (2007). The quiet revolution: the emergence of interfaith consciousness. Sydney: ABC Books.
Interfaith dialogue has not been without its critics. In seeking to move dialogue beyond being just a “talkfest” there have been a number of collaborative interfaith projects documented in the following books, which cover a number of areas such as youth, chaplaincy and education in schools. This section of books is a great resource for ministry. They highlight issues that arise in interfaith relationships and provide creative strategies and practical steps to work through them.
Engebretson, K. (2009). In your shoes: inter-faith education for Australian schools and universities. Ballan: Connor Court.
Patel, E., & Brodeur, P. (Eds.). (2006). Building the interfaith youth movement: beyond dialogue to action Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.
Schipani, D., & Buecket, L. D. (Eds.). (2009). Interfaith spiritual care: understandings and practice. Ontario: Pandora Press.
Torry, M., & Thorley, S. (Eds.). (2008). Together and different: Christians engaging with people of other faiths. Norwich: Canterbury Press.
In a similar vein one of the impressive set of books that only just recently arrived in the library is Sharma, A. (Ed.). (2009). The world’s religions after September 11 (Vol. 1-4). Connecticut: Preager Publishers. This four-volume set looks at interfaith relations according to the following four themes: Religion, war, and peace; Religion and human rights; the interfaith dimension and spirituality. Each theme is explored from a variety of faith perspectives making this collection a truly collaborative interfaith project.
The risk of being practically oriented towards dialogue is that theology can easily be sidelined. Interfaith dialogue is often confused with being the same as a theology of other faiths. It is important not to fuse the two. This section of books gives an introductory overview of Christian theologies of other faiths and their relationship to interfaith dialogue. Of note is the World Council of Churches reflection on their 1979 document, Guidelines on dialogue with people of living faiths and ideologies thirty years later. Other theological issues such as the place of Christian belonging in a multifaith context, religious superiority and emerging theologies of other faiths are also explored.
Barnes, M. (2002). Theology and the dialogue of religions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cracknell, K. (2006). In good and generous faith: Christian responses to religious pluralism. Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press.
Cornille, C. (Ed.). (2002). Many mansions? Multiple religious belonging and Christian identity. Maryknoll: Orbis.
Dupuis, J. (2001). Christianity and the religions: from confrontation to dialogue. New York: Orbis.
Karkainnen, V. M. (2003). An introduction to the theology of religions. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Knitter, P. F. (Ed.). (2005). The myth of religious superiority: a multifaith exploration. New York: Orbis Books.
Queiruga, A. T., Susin, L. C., & Vigil, J. M. (Eds.). (2007/1). Pluralist theology: the emerging paradigm. London: SCM Press.
WCC (2003). Ecumenical considerations for dialogue and relations with people of other religions: taking stock of 30 years of dialogue and revisiting the 1979 guidelines. Geneva: World Council of churches.
There are a number of interfaith practical resources that can be used to facilitate interfaith discussions or as a means of introducing the congregations to the topic. The Uniting Church National Assembly has put together two DVD resources with the objective of encouraging UCA congregations to develop relationships with the religious other.
ROF (2006). Getting Started: Why engage in interfaith relationships? Sydney: Uniting Church National Assembly
ROF (2009). Neighbourhoods of difference: the Uniting Church in Australia and interfaith relations. Sydney: Uniting Church National Assembly.
As Islam has been a constant focus of the media the two following resources are an alternative to the story of Islamic fundamentalism. Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought (2007). A common word between us and you: an open letter and call from Muslim religious leaders. Strathfield, NSW: Columban Institute. This document was signed by 138 Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals declaring that the “love of God and love of neighbour” to be the common ground between Christians and Muslims. This document has inspired many interfaith discussions. The Imam & the Pastor (2006). London: FLT Films is a powerful movie that explores the relationship between Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye in Kudana, northern Nigeria whose respective Muslim and Christian communities are torn apart by religious conflict. It is a story of forgiveness and reconciliation and a case study of grass root peace building initiatives by two communities torn apart by interreligious conflict. This DVD is a great discussion starter not only on issues relating to interfaith but also reconciliation. If you are looking for a more reflective, meditative interfaith resource then Bradley, R. (2008). Mosaic: favourite prayers and reflections from inspiring Australians. Sydney: ABC Books is a wonderful Australian resource. Mosaic has been described as “a collection of favourite prayers and reflections chosen by a broad range of Australians from different backgrounds and faiths, people who range from quiet achievers to high-profile individuals.”
In conclusion, it is only fitting to end with a couple of books that explore Australia’s religious landscape. Healey, J. (2009). Religious beliefs (Vol. 292): Spinney Press, is a great start if you are looking for an introductory overview of religious beliefs and issues in the Australian context. It interprets the findings of the 2006 census and maps emerging religious issues. It includes a section on the difference between agnostic and atheist views. For a more in depth discussion and reading of the Australian religious landscape see Bouma, G. (2006). Australian soul: religion and spirituality in the twenty first century Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bouma provides a sociological perspective on religious diversity.