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Interreligious Dialogue on Education


Since 2002, educators and representatives of Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism have engaged in Woodstock's Interreligious Dialogue on Education. Speaking first from their own experience, the partners have explored the similarities and differences between how each one's religion teaches its children. Premised on the lack of, and need for, interfaith dialogue on a topic so crucial as education, this dialogue now envisions making public presentations, giving workshops, and entering into policy questions of religion in public and private education in the future.

Toward A New Paradigm for Interreligious Understanding

How do religiously committed adults, educated for careers and established in their professions, develop interreligious understanding and what distinguishes this learning from other forms of knowledge? Woodstock Theological Center's Interreligious Dialogue on Education probes the dynamics of interreligious understanding through a peer dialogue about common concerns in need of public consensus and resolution.

pe2An Interreligious Dialogue on Education event for Georgetown University students

Urgent appeals for harmony and respect among religious groups and fervent calls for cooperation among religious leaders and their communities continually arise in a variety of contexts today. Schools could increase instruction about religions, and institutions of higher learning might give more emphasis to religious dimensions in the fields of study to spread accurate information, encourage respect, and stir insight. Religious communities can help by expanding catechetical and theological programs to include examinations of interreligious relationships. Yet, while familiarity with the religious heritages of others and attentiveness to interreligious relationships are critically important educational goals, interreligious understanding, which bridges differences and promotes friendship and sympathy, seems more important for the common search for truth and instilling constructive attitudes among religious groups.

Education, the focus of this dialogue and a universal and public activity for teaching and learning about beliefs, knowledge, skills, and dispositions, occurs in a variety of context today. Every religious group purveys and participates in education, and religious groups are influential determinants of who teaches and learns, what is taught, and how it is taught. This is evident with subjects, such as, the nature of creation, the sanctity of life, the hierarchy of knowledge, and norms for public life.

Interreligious understanding arises from a combination of education and dialogue. Woodstock's Interreligious Dialogue on Education brings together professionals from a range of backgrounds to investigate difficult public issues and to promote interreligious understanding. As spiritually motivated persons from a variety of religious traditions, participants engage in directed conversations that require deeper moral and spiritual qualities than the tolerance and respect necessary for civil harmony. For the sake of coexistence and harmony, inclinations of the mind or the heart are often left unresolved or are relegated from public discussion; but, in dialogue, persons of different religious traditions challenge one another to take account of their diversity and to understand differences while remaining faithful to indispensable beliefs. Dialogue is an opportunity to share information, to correct how participants understand one another, to challenge when compelled to disagree, and to disclose present and past joys and losses, hopes and hurts. Understanding that arises from dialogue influences how participants comprehend narratives, frame issues while taking account of differing views, improve and even correct how they articulate their own beliefs, communicate feelings and experiences, propose solutions and other courses of action, and build solidarity by forming mutually supporting relationships with integrity and sensitivity.

While developing this new model for interreligious understanding, the group will seek consensus and offer suggestions for resolving contemporary issues. Participants also hope to produce a self-study that evaluates interreligious understanding in light of other forms of learning. They intend to communicate their insights and findings through panels and other public means.