~by Rev. Leland Stewart
“Those virtues that befit dignity are forbearance, mercy, compassion, and loving kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth.”
~ Baha’i faith, Science and Spirituality, page 170
There are many levels of interfaith. The beginning of the process is the coming together of people and/or leaders of various faiths to share their views of faith and how they can get along with each other even though their different religions and spiritual movements have different understandings of life. Few, if any, of these people change their faith as the result of their dialog.
Other dimensions of interfaith are when a person changes his/her faith and stays with the new faith. Still others join a new faith for a time and then return to the original faith, probably enriched by the experience. An additional outcome of the interfaith experience is that a person follows two or more religions. The most changed perspective is with those who let go of their original faith and take on an exploration of all religions and spiritual movements.
Some people have no regard for religion in any of its forms. Certainly there are many examples of religions who hate each other and as a result engage in violent behavior. The role of interfaith in this regard is to help such people to find out what religion is supposed to be in promoting mutual respect and understanding.
Interfaith is growing rapidly as people realize the need for the religions to get along with each other. Two examples of the rapid growth of interfaith are the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Last October the Parliament held its meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, with almost ten thousand people in attendance. The United Religions Initiative since the year 2000 has started more than 500 cooperation circles in a large number of countries. There are about twenty interfaith organizations just in the Los Angeles area alone.
It is true that in the various faiths, certain people take on the interfaith work, and others continue just paying attention to their own faith. One of the tasks of interfaith now is to help those other individuals to realize the importance of interfaith and begin to get involved.
Is interfaith a religion? For most people it is not. However, for some of the people who are most involved it serves as a faith with all of its inspiration and power. Those who have transcended their original faiths do need that kind of spiritual awakening and call to service. What it should be called, and what forms it will take are yet to be decided.
Spirit is One; paths are many!!!