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June 24, 2022

Religion: What is interfaith work?

Hans Kung is a Swiss Catholic priest, theologian and author who served on the faculty of the University of Tübingen in 1960, and served as a theological adviser during the Second Vatican Council. In his address at the opening of the Exhibit on the World’s Religions at Santa Clara University on March 31, 2005, he said, “There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions. There will be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions.”  

Rev. Patrick Davis

Interfaith work is not an assimilation of religious traditions in order to provide a new faith tradition. Interfaith is a dialogue among the faith traditions of the world. It involves a cooperative dialogue that is not only constructive, but also a positive interaction between people of different religious traditions and/or spiritual or humanistic beliefs, at both the individual and institutional levels. It is distinct from syncretism or alternative religion, in that dialogue often involves promoting understanding between different religions or beliefs to increase acceptance of others. 

Our world has become a global village. No longer do we need to go to “exotic” lands to encounter the splendor of the faith traditions of humankind. Our cities, villages and neighborhoods are now populated with the peoples of the world. This rich and emerging diversity of experiences, ideas and people creates a fertile opportunity for conversation, understanding, cooperation and peace-making.  

The work of the South County Clergy Interfaith Alliance (ICA) as I experience it has been to provide locally based worship and education programs that seek to develop and enhance an appreciation of the faith traditions in our community and of the world. Over the years the ICA, along with the Interfaith CommUNITY of the South County, have designed and offered introductory programs to help participants cope with inherited stereotypes, innocent misunderstandings and embarrassing questions, and provide a general knowledge of the many faith traditions of humankind.

Both the ICA and the ICSC will provide contact information for those who would like to meet people from the various faith traditions and perhaps visit their places of worship. For more information, contact the ICA/ICSC Executive Director Rabbi Debbie Israel at [email protected]

Rev. Patrick Davis is the retired pastor of the United Methodist Church and continues to serve as the Executive Director of the Bay Area Alliance for Youth and Family Mental Health Services.  He was one of the organizers of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance and currently acts as the liaison between the lay and clergy groups.

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