Interfaith Lessons I Have Learned

James Fleming is an Irish, Roman Catholic priest with extensive experience in Muslim-Christian dialogue. Listed below are some of the learnings he has aquired in his more than 20 years of interfaith work:

  • Relate to others as equal partners in the search for truth
  • Recognize that listening as well as speaking is necessary for a genuine conversation. Remember the words of St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel always, and when necessary use words.”
  • Treasure the sense of wonder that comes with encountering the new, the unusual and the surprising. Record such experiences in a journal if possible
  • Be hungry for knowledge about the other person’s culture and religion. Learn to understand what others actually believe and value. And allow them to express their beliefs and values in their own terms. This does mean that we cannot, with experience and knowledge, challenge other people’s cultural values
  • Be honest in sharing your beliefs and do not try to water them down to accommodate. Other people see through this and lose respect for you
  • Do not mispresent or disparage other peoples’ beliefs and practices
  • Be aware of your own need for ongoing conversion to your own professed beliefs. Remember, it is not our job to convert others to our beliefs, but to be faithful to our own
  • Respond to others as a gift, not as a threat
  • Be sensitive to vulnerable people and do not try to exploit them
  • Remember that it’s our differences that can make a difference, so rejoice in the richness of our diversities

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