The term ‘inter-faith’ is sometimes used to refer to inter-denominational relationships within Christianity but here we focus on relationships between Christians and members of other world faiths.
Christians vary in their attitudes to inter-faith engagement, depending on their own belief systems. This is reflected in the degree to which Christians are prepared to come together with others, and the boundaries they place on engagement. However, in a world of growing secularism, poverty, oppression, violence, mistrust and fear, many people may welcome greater opportunities for encouraging mutual understanding and a possible common approach to some moral and social issues.
In a local context there are increasing numbers of people here who are from cultural and religious backgrounds that are new to us. If we want to promote a more harmonious society it is helpful if we can at least learn a little more about each other. This page points to sources of information for the official stances on inter-faith relationships of some Christian churches, and other useful sources of information.
The separation in the world is increasingly not between faiths and subdivisions of faith but between faith and the lack of it. How to respond to rapid social change while staying faithful to tradition is a challenge for all faiths.
Francis Campbell, Ambassador to the Vatican 2005-11
Local Resources and Organisations
The Diversiton website offers training and resources on religious and cultural diversity.
The Northern Ireland Interfaith Forum
The forum provides a safe place for members of different faiths to meet. A downloadable summary of the Forum’s purpose and activities, and some interfaith contacts is available here.
Read a statement from the Forum here, issued in February 2017, in response to negative statements in the media towards minority faith communities. The Forum has also published Threads of Compassion: Guidelines for Multifaith and Interfaith Events.
The Catholic Church in Ireland: Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, gave an overview of his Church’s role in inter-faith dialogue in 2007. Click here to read. The foundational document for Catholic inter-church dialogue is the encyclical Nostra Aetate, 1965.
Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue: Reflections and Orientations on Interreligious Dialogue and the Proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. See also the address of Pope Benedict XVI in 2011.
Pontifical Council for promoting Christian Unity. Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with the Jews.
The People Seeking Asylum/Refugee Information Pack produced by the Refugee and Migrant Project of the Irish Bishop’s Conference also gives advice on encountering people from other religions and the conditions for honest dialogue.
The Church of Ireland: Guidelines for Interfaith Events and Dialogue, published in 2007 by the Committee for Christian Unity and the Bishops of the Church of Ireland
The Anglican Communion Network for Inter Faith Concerns (NIFCON) published Generous Love in 2008. This examines the Anglican theology of inter-faith relations.
See also The World Council of Churches (WCC): Called to Dialogue: Interreligious and Intra-Christian Dialogue in Ecumenical Conversation and the Parliament of the World’s Religions website.
Other websites and Resources
Connect: Different Faiths Shared Values An inter faith resource guide for young people aged 16 – 25.
Finding Refuge A resource for young people prepared by Down County Museum. It provides information about Judaism and experiences of the Holocaust.
Inter-Faith Learning, Dialogue and Cooperation: Next Steps. Prepared by the Interfaith Network for the UK. A full list of their publications is available at www.interfaith.org.uk
NI Health and Social Care MultiCultural & Beliefs Handbook
Rev. Suzanne Cousins, Generous Love in Multi-Faith Ireland: Towards Mature Citizenship and a Positive Pedagogy for the Church of Ireland in Local Christian-Muslim Mission and Engagement (Braemor Studies Series), Dublin, 2018.
Richard Sudworth, Distinctly Welcoming: Christian Presence in a Multifaith Society, 2007, Scripture Union
A Handbook of Faiths, Norman Richardson (ed), Northern Ireland Inter-Faith Forum, 2002
The Northern Ireland Interfaith Forum has a list of books providing background information.