Why You Should Agree Before You Disagree

During the opening of the DC: Interfaith Conference, one of the coordinators stated that interfaith work brings people from darkness, or misunderstanding, to light. This light, as another coordinator emphasized, allows us to be multidimensional in our understanding of different religions. The concept of multidimensionality confused me at first, as I had not stopped to consider before if I was going deeper in my understanding of different faiths or if I was going deeper in my participation in interfaith dialogue. Establishing dialogue, especially with someone whose faith is unfamiliar to you, can be an intimidating task for some. Moreover, when factors such as politics or policy are brought into the conversation, it can be hard to find common ground to start the conversation off of.

Despite whatever differences may exist, however, there is always a point where agreements or similarities can be brought to light. As I learned in one of my breakout sessions, during which we addressed the obstacles to interfaith dialogue, agreement should always be the starting point of a conversation. No matter how small or insignificant the agreement may seem, it has the power to establish a relationship between people where a relationship did not previously exist. The essence of faith, as one participant placed it, is to bring people together. Interfaith dialogue should always include some aspect of bringing people together, even if there are points on which they disagree. What I found during the conference, is that out of all the people I had a chance to talk to, we each found something we could agree on, whether it be an issue we think needs to be solved, how and when we pray, or our favorite hashtags to use on social media.

Multidimensionality, it turned out, was a concept I would keep in mind during my further participation in interfaith work and dialogue. There is always something more to learn when we interact with those outside of our faith, and sometimes this even gives us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves.

Written by Nena Beecham, F’18