Multi-faith vs. Inter-faith
He describes ‘multi-fath’ as: “When people of different faiths are found together, in a conference, neighborhood, or nation, they are best described as multi-faith, representing different faiths.”
And ‘inter-faith’ as: “The central assumption of many in the interfaith dialogue business has been that at their core, all religious people—Hindus and Buddhists, Muslims and Jews, Christians and Animists—are striving for the same thing, and are just using different words and concepts to get there. We should therefore be able to cooperate around common beliefs to improve society, the reasoning goes.”
He then explores that assumption, surveying the core beliefs of the world’s four major religions. He concludes:
“So according to the four largest world religions, God is one with creation and takes on millions of forms, God may or may not exist, God is one and absolute, and God is one but exists in three persons.
If we cannot agree on even the basic definition of God or his character, how can we say that all the major religions are on the same path toward the truth about God?
Pretending that we all believe the same thing does not foster dialogue but in fact prohibits it.”
So, very different beliefs. BUT…we must be willing to live together with those of different beliefs. Ed then explores how religions that are mutually exclusive can peacefully exist side by side. He proposes (and fleshes out) four foundational commitments that the followers of the world’s religions could agree to make:
- Let each religion speak for itself.
- Talk with and about individuals, not generic “faiths.”
- Respect the sincerely held beliefs of people of other religions.
- Grant each person the freedom to make his or her faith decisions.
What might that look like? Ed states:
“Muslims should be free to build a masjid where they live, and Christians should defend their religious freedom to do so. At the same time, Christians should be free to plant churches in places like Bhutan, the Maldives, Brunei, and Saudi Arabia. No matter where we live or what religion we follow, we should not demand for ourselves that which we are unwilling to grant others—freedom from compulsion, freedom from discrimination on the basis of creed, and freedom of conscience.”
He concludes the article with a comment on ‘tolerance’: it is not keeping silent – rather it should allow all people to “explore and respond to the Truth.”
The article is well worth reading, pondering and then identifying practical ways for the Australian multi-faith society to live in peace.