A remarkable intolerance within interreligious dialogue
An impression I got trying to get invited to an interreligious conference of Religions for Peace
Within religion there is a constant control of anything said by members of that religion if it conforms to the dogma.
In the past the intolerance within a specific religion could go as far as to condemning people who were seen as not conforming to the dogma to death.
The intolerance within interreligious dialogue is, of course much milder, but it can lead to the exclusion of anyone who is not an official representative of one of the accredited religions or of an organization recognized for its interreligious dialogue.
Remarkably such intolerance is never present within truly accomplished representatives of specific religions.
This is what I experienced with a Sudanese Sufi teacher who had thousands of disciples in Sudan, in Egypt and all over the world; Mohammed Osman was his name.
With him I stayed for one year, mostly in Cairo. When I met him I had mainly one question on my mind: can it be said, that in essence all religions are one?
It took me a full year to pose my question. But this year was filled with wonderful information about the religion of Islam.
He truly taught me to understand Islam. And when I finally was able to ask my question his reply contained a twofold teaching.
My question was: can it be said, that in essence all religions are one – or is there only one true religion?
He replied: there is only one true religion, it is Islam – but it is not the religion known by the name “Islam”.
From all I had learned about Islam I could understand because the “Islam” he meant describes the peace springing forth from being conform with the will of God.
This conformity can, of course, be reached in any of the religions, it can be accomplished if a member honestly takes his religions as a guideline to deal with his personal consciousness.
But then it may happen that by taking his religion as such a guideline this person can get into contradiction with the representatives of his religion who are tasked with controlling its dogma.
Because, sometimes such officials have a rather narrowminded understanding of the dogma. They never would agree with someone saying that in essence all religions are one, because in their view, there can be only one true religion and it is theirs. In their view all other religions, are wrong and need to be antagonized.
For that reason, it can happen, and in the past more it has happened more than once that, confronted with such representatives of their specific religion, such persons were accused of being heretics.
The most famous example, probably, is Jesus. But there are numerous other examples of people who have been put to death because they were suspected of being heretics.
Within interreligious dialogue, of course, no one will be put to death. But a similar mechanism is at work.
Here, the organizers of such dialogue have to watch out, that only representatives of the participating religions or of recognized dialogue organizations will be invited to speak.
Persons who engage in interreligious dialogue without being representatives of a dialogue organization or a recognized religion are likely to be excluded, because their participation could cause irritation with some of the delegates.
This is what happened to me in August 2019 at a big interreligious conference in Lindau, Germany, which was organized by “Religions for Peace”.
I had just completed a book outlining a way to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By applying a strictly interreligious perspective I was able to describe a procedure which could enable the parties involved in the conflict to question their own position and to understand the true needs of the opposing parties.
With this book, I thought, I would be an ideal dialogue partner for the representatives of each one of the religions present at the conference in Lindau.
Even though I had been accepted as a dialogue partner by one of the most prestigious participants of the conference, Rabbi David Rosen, with whom I have been in contact for the past 17 years, the organizers of the conference were skeptical about my work. And, just to be on the safe side, they kept me out. They did not allow me to participate in their conference. They also did not allow me to present my book at an exhibition area of the conference where partner organizations could present their work.
And when I then distributed some flyers about my book outside the conference, they prohibited that and said, if I continued, they would send in the police – something that reminded me of measures against heretics in the past.
As I talked about this to another “visitor”, also excluded from the conference, he said, that he too had the impression that the organizers could only see their organization but not the intention from which this organization had arisen. And that these organizers have indeed great similarity to the representatives of religions in the past who were, as the guards of orthodoxy, entitled to exclude certain individuals whose scope of mind they could not grasp.
hp | 2019-09-04
The Author of ‘Honorable Peace’
The author studied Catholic theology, history and political science. Originally from Salzburg, Austria, he went to live in San Francisco for five years. There he gained a sense of human beings’ potential, especially in terms of spirituality and civilization. This, in turn, motivated him to learn about other cultures and religions. He moved to Egypt and stayed for one year in Cairo, mainly experiencing the spiritual depth of Islam. Back in Europe, teaching Catholic religion in schools and studying Shamanism and native religions, he trained to become a psychotherapist. Working with psychiatric patients, he wrote his first book, Resurrection – Before Death. How to Use Biblical Texts in Psychotherapy. In his therapeutic practice he is now mainly working with severely traumatized Middle Eastern refugees. More ->