Interfaith dialogue may prevent dissension

When the Bainbridge Island Interfaith Council was formed in 1997, it gave an opportunity for the diverse faith communities of our island to work together.

As a Baha’i, it is a principle of faith, “to consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship.”

Baha’u’llah said, “That the peoples of the world, of whatever race or religion, derive their inspiration from one heavenly source and are the subjects of one God.”

The following is a brief summary of the history of the Interfaith movement with emphasis that dialogue among the diverse faith communities is essential to preventing conflict.

The Interfaith movement is relatively young. During the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 there were many congresses held on topics such as medicine, philosophy, science, etc.

The largest congress and the first known formal gathering of representatives of Eastern and Western spiritual traditions, was the “World Parliament of Religions.”

It is often considered the beginning of the inter-religious  movement. The first mention of the Baha’i Faith was made in the United States at that time.

History records place diverse religious communities throughout the centuries. A few examples:

• In 1556, Akbar The Great, in Mughal India, encouraged tolerance in his empire among people of diverse faiths.

• From the 700s to 1300s, the Moors in Spain had a more advanced culture than most of Medieval Europe. Diversity of religion and scholarship were honored. Great discoveries were made in mathematics, medicine and other fields of knowledge. The scholars preserved the writings of the Greeks, Romans and Middle Eastern civilizations.

• The Balkans, first administered by the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century, was a place where Catholic Christians, Orthodox Christians, Muslims, Jews and Sufis lived in relative harmony until the recent ethnic cleansing. There was generally peace and prosperity in societies where diversity of religions and ethnicity was respected.

Many inter-religious organizations formed from that first congress. A hundred years later in 1993, another World Parliament of Religions was held in Chicago. All spiritual traditions were invited to participate, including Native Americans.

Dr. Hans Kung, president of the Foundation for a Global Ethic that had just been formed, said:

“There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions. There will be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions.”

It is this dialogue as well as cooperation in service to the community that the Interfaith Council supports.

In the words of Baha’ullah, the prophet founder of the Baha’i Faith:

“Know thou assuredly that the essence of all the Prophets of God is one and the same. Their unity is absolute” and, “Ye are the fruits of one tree, the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship.”

For more information about the Interfaith Council, go to www. binkinterfaith.org.

Olga Ruys is a member of the Bainbridge Baha’i Community

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