The Times writer, Ruth Gledhill, posted on the trip to Auschwitz yesterday of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi of the UK and other faith leaders, including a representative from the Muslim Council of Britain:
Today in Manchester, Israel's immediate past Ambassador to the Holy See, Oded Ben Hur,
addressed a mixed audience of Jews and Christians on the importance of remembering the Shoah. He suggested that most dialogue of the last 20 years had not been completely successful, and had in fact often constituted monologues between two or three different religions. He suggested that we should launch a 'marathon' of education in which people came out of their respective boxes and met the 'other' half way.
There is truth in this statement. In the UK much interfaith dialogue has either skirted around difficult issues, or been one-sided. In Israel, dialogue is very serious, but also tends to be based on 'monologues'.
In June I hope to be holding an Open Day at Manchester University on the nature of inter faith dialogue and how we can best achieve it. Is it necessary? What are the boundaries? When does dialogue become either appeasement or conversion?
What are the various ways in which dialogue can be had? Talking is only one way. Pilgrimages, shared cultural and sporting events and even picnics can be helpful.
The ambassador suggested that although religious bigotry has caused much pain and suffering throughout the world, this very problem can also help to provide the solution. By learning to understand the 'other', maybe we can help to heal ourselves and, ultimately, the world.