Interfaith Dinner Dialogues Peacemeal

Interfaith Dinner Dialogues, Washington, USA

“At a time when cultural and religious division is on the rise, people of goodwill are challenged to increase their efforts at building bridges of understanding and solidarity with those who are different. One way of doing so is to explore with others what it’s like to walk in their unique shoes.  During this dialogue each of us will have a chance to share our own stories and also to listen as others relate their own life experiences.”

Interfaith Dinner Dialogues are a project of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, an organisation which brings 11 faiths together in the DC region of the USA.

Around the table, over a simple meal, people of diverse religious and spiritual backgrounds come together to share food and offer their views on life and meaning.

Participants are grouped in hosts’ homes in an effort to achieve religious diversity (the diversity of each group tends to reflect the demographics of our region). A trained facilitator appointed by IFC guides the discussion so that all feel welcome.

Those gathered share around specific questions while the others listen in a spirit of openness and curiosity.

Dinner dialogue Spring 2016

The following story is from Zamin Danty, the Dialogue Facilitator at a Dinner Dialogue held in 2016.

On a Sunday in May, nine Interfaith sojourners met at the home of Peter and Penny K. in Bethesda for an IFC-sponsored dialogue on empathy. A number of us were from more “hybrid” spiritual paths, but others from more defined faith traditions.

Some others of us identified as interfaith or peacemaking activists. In our midst were also a number of people who had international experience or had been diplomats, and one individual who had worked for USAID in Central Asia.  There was also a strong Sufi and contemplative influence present.

A large part of our evening was spent deeply listening to the faith and life journeys of others. One Jewish participant described the choice of her persecuted people as being: staying within your own world and going within, or becoming an activist and joining and identifying with other persecuted peoples.

One Catholic peacemaking activist described her own personal transformative experience of living in a Muslim home.  Another participant shared the powerful life-altering experience of meeting his spiritual teacher in India.

There was also a deep realization that our wounds can be a doorway to feeling for one another. We learned again, that one component in trauma was moral wounding, and that suffering can be an invitation to a greater journey toward healing, community and redemption.

We also touched into the areas of Israeli-Palestinian relationships, the Syrian tragedy, and closer to home the dichotomy of “The Black Lives Matter” movement and the lives of our police. Our Chinese participant also shared about her inner work of reconciling Chinese traditional culture with some Christian beliefs.

One wise diplomat and Vietnam-era military veteran concluded our evening with this thought: We walk in one another’s shoes, to comprehend the narrative of the other, to listen to these, as St. Benedict would say, “with the ear of the heart.”

Republished with permission from The Omega Interfaith Forum.

More about Interfaith Dinner Dialogues

If you want to know more about the project, visit the IFC website.


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