Interfaith Dialogue and Civic Engagement
Interfaith understanding is a crucial element of civic engagement and vibrant communities. It is important to engage in dialogue with those who practice faiths not your own (or none at all). We encourage you to visit others’ houses of faith, with humility and the intention to listen and learn. But before or while visiting, we encourage starting a dialogue with the house’s leadership or leading community members; requesting an invitation where appropriate.
To engage religious individuals, groups, and communities who are different than you, Sojourners CEO Rob Wilson-Black advises considering these steps:
1. Determine your goal: to understand, to empathize, to be humble in the face of difference.
2. Ask for permission to visit or engage; don’t sneak around or stay on the margins unless asked to.
3. Prepare to be uncomfortable, and practice silence in the face of discomfort.
4. Include both time to learn about and witness their world, AND private time with them as well.
5. Do something twice, not just a one-off; visit twice, discuss twice or more.
6. Do some research before engaging so that the most basic questions don’t need asking.
7. Make sure this isn’t just a photo-op or “interfaith tourism.”
8. Never argue. Try saying “I’m grateful to have the opportunity to learn about your perspective.” Imagine you believed what they believed, lived how they lived, were educated how they were educated, were in community as they are. Now imagine what your response would be to someone like you coming from another perspective.
9. Ask lots of questions, noticing how you feel when receiving the answer. Write down feelings.
10. Always send a thank you note, gift, or gesture.