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Sunday, 9 November 2008

Borders and Bridges - responding to religious diversity


Much of the debate about engaging with religious diversity assumes that we are faced with only two options - exclusivism, retaining the integrity of a faith position, or a tolerant liberalism in which difference doesn't matter because we are all on different paths to the same religious end.

That account of things is wrong and there is lots of evidence that shows from the point of view of empirical lived reality to show that it is wrong.

Borders & Bridges: Mennonite Witness in a Religiously Diverse World edited by Peter Dula and Alain Epp Weaver (Cascade Publishing, 2007) provides a series of case studies that prove the point. The stories are simpley and directly told largely by those who have been engaged in the situations they describe arising from long term placements under the direction of local organisations and building on personal relationships.

It is these long term patiently wrought connections that open up the possibility of engagment across the borders of religious difference. Interesting too is the fact of the seriousness of the faith commitment of a Charistian tradition committed to peacemaking and visibly distant from the violence of the US empire that has opened the doors to conversation. The story of the MCC engagment with Iranian Shi'ites is a stunning example.

This is a challenging and moving collection of stories with a reflective theological postscript.

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