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. Some feel that there are many ways to the one Divine Centre; some that other religions may contain truth but there is no salvation, except through Christ; still more see Christianity as the only true religion.
These differing approaches are reflected in the degrees 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 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, contact details for members of world faiths here, 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.
In February 2017, in response to negative statements in the media towards minority faith communities, the Executive Committee of the Northern Ireland Inter-Faith Forum issued a statement, Prejudice and Discrimination Against People from Minority Faith and Ethnic Backgrounds.
The Forum has published Threads of Compassion: Guidelines for Multifaith and Interfaith Events.
For more information contact: Edwin Graham, Secretary, at firstname.lastname@example.org
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 at the Greenhills Ecumenical Conference, 22 January 2007. [Greenhills Ecumenical Conference Press release.pdf]
The People Seeking Asylum/Refugee Information Pack (sheet 10) [pdf] 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 foundational document for Catholic inter-church dialogue is the encyclical Nostra Aetate, 1965.)
The Church of Ireland
In 2007 the Committee for Christian Unity and the Bishops of the Church of Ireland published a pamphlet, Guidelines for Interfaith Events and Dialogue, written by Canon Patrick Comerford.
The Methodist Church in Ireland:
Irish Methodism and Inter-Faith Understanding report to conference in 2007 (Conference Report)
National and International
The World Council of Churches (WCC) has published Called to Dialogue: Interreligious and Intra-Christian Dialogue in Ecumenical Conversation, A Practical Guide
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI)
The CTBI Lent course for 2017 is Returning Home: Christian Faith in Encounter with Other Faiths.
The address of Pope Benedict XVI at the day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace in Assisi which he convened, 25 years after a similar gathering was brought together by Pope John Paul II.
Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue: Reflections and Orientations on Interreligious Dialogue and the Proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
Porvoo Consultation on Interfaith Relations 2003
The Porvoo Communion is a communion of churches including Anglicans and Lutherans, mostly in Northern Europe, that have signed an agreement to ‘share a common life in mission and service’. The Porvoo Guidelines for Inferfaith Encounter (2003) can be downloaded from the Church of England web site.
The Anglican Communion Network for Inter Faith Concerns (NIFCON)
In 2008 NIFCON published Generous Love [pdf]: the truth of the Gospel and the call to Dialogue. This is subtitled ‘An Anglican theology of inter faith relations’ but it also builds on similar work in other Christian traditions.
The Methodist Church in Britain has resources, suggestions and stories about interfaith relations
Other websites and Resources
Connect: Different Faiths Shared Values An inter faith action and 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, experiences of the Holocaust and the Kindertransport.
Pontifical Council for promoting Christian Unity. Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with the Jews.
Building Good Relations with People of Different Faiths and Beliefs
Prepared by the Interfaith Network for the UK. Also available in hard copy from their site.
Inter-Faith Learning, Dialogue and Cooperation: Next Steps
Prepared by the Interfaith Network for the UK, also available in booklet form. Full list of interfaith publications at www.interfaith.org.uk/publications/all-publications/all-publications
Check Up! : A Guide to the special healthcare needs of ethnic-religious minority communities.This is helpful in describing religious and cultural practice.
Local Health Trusts have prepared guidance for good practice for staff as they care for people of different religious and cultural backgrounds, for example, the Southern Trust’s Multi Cultural and Beliefs Handbook.
EMBRACE Information Sheet, updated winter 2016/17.
A Handbook of Faiths, edited by Norman Richardson, Northern Ireland Inter-Faith Forum, 2002
Distinctly Welcoming: Christian Presence in a Multifaith Society
Written by Richard Sudworth and published in 2007 by Scripture Union, this book is available to borrow from the EMBRACE Resource Library.
The Northern Ireland Interfaith Forum has a list of books providing background information.