The Dialogue Decalogue: Ground Rules for Interreligious, Intercultural Dialogue
Leonard Swidler

Dialogue is a conversation on a common subject between two or more persons with differing views, the primary purpose of which is for each participant to learn from the other so that s/he can change and grow. This very definition of dialogue embodies the first commandment of dialogue.

In the religious-ideological sphere in the past, we came together to discuss with those differing with us, for example, Catholics with Protestants, either to defeat an opponent, or to learn about an opponent so as to deal more effectively with her or him, or at best to negotiate with him or her. If we faced each other at all, it was in confrontation -sometimes more openly polemically, sometimes more subtly so, but always with the ultimate goal of defeating the other, because we were convinced that we alone had the absolute truth.

But dialogue is not debate. In dialogue each partner must listen to the other as openly and sympathetically as s/he can in an attempt to understand the other's position as precisely and, as it were, as much from within, as possible. Such an attitude automatically includes the assumption that at any point we might find the partner's position so persuasive that, if we would act with integrity, we would have to change, and change can be disturbing.(Full Text)

Inter-religious Dialogue
Sean Dwan

Most modern people are conscious of living in a religiously plural world. Even if they do not have the opportunity to personally meet Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, or Hindus they are often stimulated to increase their understanding not only of another religion but of religion in general. The stimulus can come from living in multi-religious neighbourhoods and wanting to know something about, for example, religious festivals which their neighbours or co-workers celebrate, or the stimulus can come from media coverage of world events especially of conflicts which have an important religious component, for example, Yugoslavia, Sudan, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan. The questions emanating from the desire to better understand ones Muslim neighbours or to understand the background to the famine in Sudan might be the start of inter-religious dialogue, but inter-religious dialogue proper is more than this. A key requirement for engaging in inter-religious dialogue, and for overcoming our cultural and religious provincialism, is that we must have a sustained interest [as opposed to curiosity] in how all other religions express their experiences of the sacred. (Full Text)

Intercultural Dialogues and Cultural Security
Jean Tardif

Is it possible to have a common understanding of culture especially between people of different cultures? On something so closely linked to values, can a discussion lead to realistic proposals for balanced relationships between societies and cultures as globalization creates new interfaces between them? Can we do justice to the economic dimension of culture and the concrete political consequences of its fundamental role for all societies? Could the main challenge of globalization be finding ways to organize relations between societies defined through different cultures and different, evolving cultural entities that go well beyond existing economic or interstate frameworks?

How can we conceive and organize genuine intercultural dialogues if we refuse to accept culture as the source of clashes of civilizations or as an instrument of power?

To reach mutual understanding and act effectively, especially between persons of different cultures, we need minimal agreement on the basic concepts for interpreting our rapidly changing world. Following on our previous discussions on “Globalization and Cultures”, we hope now to foster debate on three series of questions about such concepts. First, how important are dialogues between cultures? Next, how should we conceive of cultures and relations between cultures? Finally, how can one to organize balanced intercultural dialogues? (Full Text)

Intercultural & Interreligious Hermeneutic: Raimon Panikkar
Gerald Hall

To cross the boundaries of one's culture without realizing that the other may have a radically different approach to reality is today no longer admissible. If still consciously done, it would be philosophically naïve, politically outrageous and religiously sinful. 

For a truly cross-cultural religious understanding we need a new revelatory experience. 

Hermeneutics is the art and science of interpretation, of bringing forth significance, of conveying meaning, of restoring symbols to life and eventually letting new symbols emerge. Hermeneutics is the method of overcoming the distance between a knowing subject and an object to be known, once the two have become estranged. 

If the task of philosophy is to understand reality, and reality is something other than myself or my specific culture or worldview, then philosophy needs to become an intercultural activity. This has not always been the case. If I assume that my culture is singularly gifted with access to truth, the philosophical task is primarily pedagogical and dialectical. However, once it is admitted that the other who does not share my cultural worldview is an original source of human understanding, traditional philosophy is called upon to unmask its pretensions of universal understanding. The same is true for theology. In the new situation of religious pluralism, theological hermeneutics needs to become an interreligious activity based on dialogical strategies. Raimon Panikkar's challenge to the philosophers and theologians of our time is precisely one of raising to consciousness the theoretical and practical importance of the other for cultural and religious hermeneutics. (Full Text)

The Way of Dialogue
Eugene J. Fisher

The term dialogue, as opposed, say, to more neutral terms such as “discussion” or “colloquium,” serves to indicate at least the presence of clear “rules of relating.” For “discussion” can easily turn into “debate” and “colloquium,” into an impersonal form of information-sharing, better handled at the neutral level of academic fora than by representatives or members of religious communities.

In proper interreligious relating, the point is not to convince the other side (note the Latin root for “to conquer” embedded in the term “convince”), but to search together for common understandings. Nor is dialogue a bargaining session in which one’s deeply held beliefs are “given away” or put at risk for the sake of compromise, or even for the sake of peace. In true dialogue, nothing of the self is given away, only increased by increased openness to and understanding of the other precisely in his or her “otherness.” There is no urge in true dialogue toward one side consuming the other (conversion) nor the creation of some synthesis of the two into some third reality alien to the traditions of each (which would, actually, be only another form of conversionism). Proselytism or conversionism are thus explicitly eschewed by both relating sides at the outset. The sole goal, if there is one, is that Jews have the opportunity to become better Jews, and Christians more authentically founded in their Christianity. It is not envisioned that the parallel lines will ever merge, only that they will travel with a more pro-found awareness of the path and the needs of the other. (Full Text)