Dialogue Principles

Dr. Leonard Swidler is a highly respected American scholar in the field of interfaith dialogue. Dr. Swidler has published this set of ten inter-religious principles which have become a classic.  Below please find this “dialogue decalogue” in both Short and Long versions.

 

SHORT VERSION

 

FIRST PRINCIPLE

The primary purpose of dialogue is to learn; that is, to change and grow in the perception and understanding of reality, and then to act accordingly.

SECOND PRINCIPLE

Inter-religious, inter-ideological dialogue must be a two-sided project within each religious or ideological community and between religious or ideological communities.

THIRD PRINCIPLE

Each participant must come to the dialogue with complete honesty and sincerity.

FOURTH PRINCIPLE

In inter-religious, inter-ideological dialogue we must not compare our ideals with our partner’s practice, but rather our ideals with our partner’s ideals, our practice with our partner’s practice.

FIFTH PRINCIPLE

Each participant must define himself… Conversely, the interpreted must be able to recognize herself in the interpretation.

SIXTH PRINCIPLE

Each participant must come to the dialogue with no hard-ançl-fast assumptions as to where the points of disagreement are.

SEVENTH PRINCIPLE

Dialogue can take place only between equals… Both must come to learn from each other.

EIGHTH PRINCIPLE

Dialogue can take place only on the basis of mutual trust.

NINTH PRINCIPLE

Persons entering into inter-religious, inter-ideological dialogue must be at least minimally self-critical of both themselves and their own religious or ideological traditions.

TENTH PRINCIPLE

Each participant eventually must attempt to experience the partner’s religion or ideology ‘from within’; for a religion or ideology is not merely something of the head, but also of the spirit, heart, and ‘whole being,’ individual and communal.

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Website of Dr. Swidler’s Dialogue Institute in Philadelphia, USA:  http://dialogueinstitute.org/

 

LONG VERSION

 

FIRST PRINCIPLE

The essential purpose of a dialogue is to learn, which entails change. At the very least, to learn that one’s dialogue partner views the world differently is to effect a change in oneself. Reciprocally, change happens for one’s partner as she/he learns about oneself.

SECOND PRINCIPLE

Dialogue must be a two-sided project: both between religious/ideological groups (Inter- and Intra-). Intra-religious/ideological dialogue is vital for moving one’s community toward an increasingly perceptive insight into reality.

THIRD PRINCIPLE

It is imperative that each participant comes to the dialogue with complete honesty and sincerity. This means not only describing the major and minor thrusts as well as potential future shifts of one’s tradition, but also possible difficulties that she/he has with it.

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FOURTH PRINCIPLE

One must compare only her/his ideals with their partner’s ideals, and her/his practice with their partner’s practice. Not their ideals with their partner’s practice.

FIFTH PRINCIPLE

Each participant needs to describe her/himself. For example, only a Muslim can describe what it really mans to be an authentic member of the Muslim community. At the same time, when one’s partner in dialogue attempts to describe back to them what they have understood of their partner’s self-description, then such a description must be recognizable to the described party.

SIXTH PRINCIPLE

Participants must not come to the dialogue with any preconceptions as to where the points of disagreement lie. A process of agreeing with their partner as much as possible, without violating the integrity of their own tradition, will reveal where the real boundaries between the traditions lie; the point where she / he cannot agree without going against the principle of their own tradition. 

SEVENTH PRINCIPLE

Dialogue can only take place between equals, which means that partners learn from each other – par cum pari according to the Second Vatican Council – and do not merely seek to teach one another.

EIGHTH PRINCIPLE

Dialogue can only take place on the basis of mutual trust. Because it is persons, and not entire communities, that enter into dialogue, it is essential for personal trust to be established. To encourage this it is important that less controversial matters are discussed before dealing with the more controversial ones.

NINTH PRINCIPLE

Participants in dialogue should have a healthy level of criticism toward their own traditions. A lack of such criticism implies that one’s tradition has all the answers, thus making dialogue not only unnecessary, but unfeasible. The primary purpose of dialogue is to learn, which is impossible if one’s tradition is seen as having all the answers.

TENTH PRINCIPLE

To truly understand another religion or ideology one must try to experience it from within, which requires a “passing over”, even if only momentarily, into another’s religious or ideological experience.

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Website of Dr. Swidler’s Dialogue Institute in Philadelphia, USA:  http://dialogueinstitute.org/

 

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