Why is interfaith dialogue important? For Rev. Shiao Chong, collaboration is an important part of working toward the common good. In February, Chong, a Christian Reformed chaplain at York University and director of LOGOS Christian Community, organized an interfaith panel discussion titled “Not in God's Name” at York's Vanier College in Toronto, Ont.
The panelists, including representatives of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, addressed the stereotype that religions are the source of conflict and explained that religious violence is not condoned in each of these faith traditions.
In September 2015, Chong had approached other faith groups at York University to see if they would be interested in holding an interfaith event. After the Paris terror attacks last fall, Rev. Chong knew that a panel discussion on religious violence was timely and would be relevant as interfaith interaction is a daily part of campus life.
“The Paris shootings in November crystallized the topic of our interfaith event,” said Chong. The name “Not in God’s Name” came from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ recent book with that title. Speaker Rabbi Greenberg drew from Sacks’ ideas to suggest that religious justification results from a narrow reading of the text and that violent religious groups take Scripture out of context. Greenberg also highlighted how the Hebrew Bible stresses loving the stranger, the ‘other’ who is different.
Father MacPherson spoke about the Doctrine of Holy War, lamenting the past when Christians used religion to justify violence even though Jesus preached non-violence and loving our enemies. Imam Nasir pointed out how religion becomes a scapegoat. Looking at our common humanity, what draws us together, is vital in building interfaith relationships and dispelling the myths, he said.
“With the three main monotheistic religions working together to speak out against violence done in the name of religion, we hope to demonstrate that different religious groups can collaborate peacefully toward shared goals for the common good,” said Chong. “I think we achieved that goal.”
Attendee Greg Sinclair, a member of New Hope Christian Reformed Church in Hamilton, Ont., commented on the excellent speakers and relevant topic. He saw the event on Facebook and attended because interfaith dialogue is important in his role with Christian Reformed World Missions. “ I appreciated the questions asked; [there was] a good spirit of dialogue and engaging with each other," said Sinclair.