Interfaith guests share perspectives on cooperation

SAN JOSE — In a dangerous world, interfaith dialogue is even more important because “a fire next door will consume your own house,” a leading U.S. Muslim told the 218th General Assembly’s Ecumenical Breakfast June 26.

 “The Quran makes plain the theological imperative for interfaith engagement,” said Muneer Fared, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America. “The book encourages interaction with all people of the Abrahamic tradition [Christians, Jews and Muslims] in worship of the one God and in work that the book calls ‘good.’”

Fared was joined by Rabbi Melanie Aron of the Congregation
Shir Hadash in nearby Los Gatos and the Rev. Ron Kobata,
executive assistant to the bishop of the Buddhist Churches of America for the precedent-setting event, entitled “What Is Required of Us? Interfaith Perspectives on Relationships
and Cooperation.”

“The 217th General Assembly took action to invite at least three interfaith leaders into the life of future General Assemblies,” explained the Rev. Robina Winbush, ecumenical officer for the Office of the General Assembly, “and today we are bringing that invitation to fruition.”

Aron said her presence demonstrates that “Jews are committed to interreligious dialogue.” The goal of such dialogue is not “coercion or conversion and we are not interested in syncretism,” she said. “I hope that we have all dropped the ‘melting pot’ and think of ourselves as the ‘salad bowl.’”

Aron said Jewish reading of the Torah “recognizes that Christians and Muslims are not idolaters, but share with us a belief in one God, a common reverence for Scripture and a commitment to social justice. Why meet and talk? Because we each have something to offer each other.”

The common humanity of all people is the unifying force
that produces interfaith understanding and dialogue, Kobata
said. “Because we are all uniquely human, we all are pieces of the puzzle that adds up to truth,” he said.

Interfaith dialogue is necessary, he said, because “the moral challenge we all face is to make choices that lead us toward a Mother Teresa rather than a Hitler.”
Responding to the three interfaith leaders, National Council of Churches General Secretary the Rev. Michael Kinnamon — a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) — outlined five requirements for Christians:
-treat all neighbors as infinitely valued;
-exercise humility in our claims about Jesus;
-allow others to define themselves and to witness on their own terms;
-cooperate in ways that promote the well-being of humanity
and creation; and
-witness to the divine grace we have in Jesus but to leave
salvation to God.
“The gospel compels us to tell what we have known in Jesus,” Kinnamon said, “but not try to limit what God can do.”