Inter-religious Dialogue: Theories and Practices
The study of interreligious dialogue has been timidly central in the global context. International community has only two choices: dialogue or death (Knitter, et. al, 1991). Religious communities live in a “global village” that are being connected strongly through the internet enterprise. The existence of the international milieu creates new way of interreligious encounter: online public sphere for interreligious meeting ground in addition to physical terrain (Phan 2016). The religious encounter in local, national and global level creates both conflict and understanding. Society for the Study of Conflict in 2015 reported that victims of religious based conflict or conflict that instigated by religious related issues in 2011 – 2013 are higher than total number of World War I and II combined. Is religion killing us? The main question in the field: is there a hope for the future of interreligious relationships? In what extend religion plays central role in instigating either peace or conflict in global. Another pivotal question is related to the method effectiveness to address interreligious dialogue. There is no panacea method for interreligious dialogue across the globe. Local dynamics always contributes to the suitable method to fit the interreligious vibrant on the ground.
Interfaith dialogue in this course does not solely focus on similarities among religions, but also sincerely hoping for a deep conversation on differences and how to handle both religious similarities and differences. In many cases, dialogue becomes a chit chat forum because its participants avoid to talk about the “hard aspects” of religious encounter (Sunardi 1999 and Lies Marcoes 2002).
Existing studies on interreligious dialogue focus only on cannon and employ theological and philosophical approaches to address the issue (Knitter 2002; Swidler 1999; Panikar 1999). However, in the context where orality and informality become the main means of social relationships, the literacy/canonical means of dialogue per se do not cover people basic problem. Here, scholars need rooms to incorporate the sociological and anthropological lens to master communal relationships in many levels of social interaction. Therefore interreligious dialogue needs to expand its discourse from literacy to also touch orality issues.
In the context of interreligious dialogue in Indonesia, text does not only mean religiously sacred written text, but also nationally sacred written texts as well as folklore texts. Dialogue needs to work on religious issues and theologies, but also on people local knowledge and national documents that create Indonesia a nation. This is particularly important because Indonesian does not have a single identity, but multifocalidentities. Therefore, interreligious dialogue studies in Indonesia require more space to incorporate other disciplines in studying relationships between religions. This approach makes dialogue an interreligious but also interdisciplinary field.