Lessons Learned in Barcelona: Interfaith Work Is Not Just Dialogue

July 24, 2004

Source: Newsday


On July 24, 2004 Newsday reported, "[A] spirit of fellowship was the ultimate goal of the 2004 Parliament of the World's Religions, which took place earlier this month. Nearly 550 events drew more than 8,000 people from nearly 80 countries. While the gathering was steeped in the grander notion of achieving world peace, the immediate task was to bring together people of different faiths to discuss what they have in common and how they are different. It was also designed to let people strengthen partnerships and build friendships so they could work on critical world issues, such as conflict resolution, the environment and poverty. 'It's important for the public to understand that interfaith work is not just dialogue,' said Kusumita P. Pedersen, chair of the Department of Religious Studies at St. Francis College in Brooklyn and a parliament trustee. The council brings together people who are working on interfaith programs at local levels who want to share their experience and network. 'People find it helpful to know what others are doing in other communities,' Pedersen said. When he returned, Hirschfield said, he realized 'the issue is not how we're all alike. It's how, with all our differences, we are going to treat each other as human beings. The temptation in all these conferences is to homogenize. The truth is, that isn't good for anything but milk. The real issue is how to evolve an ethic of diversity.'"