Islam

Why Dialogue? Reflecting on the Dialogue Journey

As we wrap up the year with Christian-Muslim dialogue, we wanted to take a moment to revisit the question we asked around SOAS at the beginning of Term 2- “What does dialogue mean to you?” For those of you who couldn’t make it to our year-end review, we discussed  what worked this term and what we want to improve upon as a society, but also how this dialogue has impacted our time here at SOAS. We have shared a quick testimonial below.

“When we matriculate as a college student, our religious beliefs immediately become secondary to our opinions as an intellectual. We may remain a committed member of one faith or another, but it would be inappropriate for us to bring our faith up in an academic essay, or use it to justify a point we share in class. It makes sense that we must distance our faith from our work in order to prevent very real problems of religious discrimination, or our dogma blinding us from facts. Dialogue still serves an important purpose in our growth outside of the classroom, however. Dialogue is a platform (perhaps the only platform) that allows us to embrace our collective identity as intellectuals of faith.

In interfaith dialogue, my thoughts as a Christian are validated and listened to by people with different beliefs. It is comforting to share about our spiritual walk when we are surrounded by other members of the same faith as us. Sharing your faith story in a Bible study group or praying as a group inside of a mosque feels like a safe,  protected expression of our faith.

But in dialogue, I can move outside of that space while still “pulling from” my Christian identity to speak. In an interfaith dialogue about gender roles in society, I could say, “The Bible says — about this topic, and I think of gender roles this way because I am a Christian.” My opinion is never disregarded or belittled because of my honesty about my beliefs.  In dialogue, I am free to reveal my spiritual identity while discussing very real and relevant issues for everyone, regardless of their faith background. A common misconception of interfaith dialogue is that it must remain grounded to merely theological concerns. SOAS Christian-Muslim Dialogue has shown that while theological dialogues are crucial to grow in understanding, dialogue can expand to include current events, social issues, and academic innovations as well. In the past year, the society has hosted New York Times bestselling authors, partnered with other societies to address social issues, and discussed topics from feminism to the historicity of the Gospels.

There are many more things to say, and I have only mentioned a few. I want to mention that dialogue pursues active coexistence with other faiths, celebrates the diversity of London, and a hundred other wonderful side effects, but instead of reading about why it is important, I urge people to come along and find their own meaning of dialogue, just like I did. Thank you, SOAS Christian-Muslim Dialogue Society, for the wonderful year. ”

Rachel Sumption, B.A. Exchange in Islamic Law, 2014

 

Come join us at the beginning of fall term to find your own meaning of dialogue! Thanks for a great year, all!