Ulster Logo
Link to facebook  Link to INCOREinfo on twitter  Link to INCORE rss feed    Linkedin link Linkedin link

The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2009, Vol.1, No.1 .

Unity in Diversity: Interfaith Dialogue in the Middle East
Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Emily Welty and Amal I. Khoury

(United States Institute of Peace Press Washington, D.C, 2007) 336 pp, PB, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-60127-013-9

This book remedies a dearth of literature on the systematic analysis of interfaith dialogue for peace. Recognising a conspicuous gap in the literature, it lays a cornerstone for future studies in this faith-based approach to peacebuilding. The major treatise of the book is to identify and distinguish, for the first time, between the various interfaith activities found within specific Middle Eastern societies.

Divided into seven chapters, the three authors frame their discussion under the heading of Track Two diplomacy, where ?unofficial? practitioners seek to use religion as a source for inter-religious understanding. Following a brief introduction on the context and challenges of dialogue, Chapter 2 begins by examining the various approaches and ideas associated with Interfaith Dialogue (IFD). Within the two categories used by the authors to classify IFD, namely the cognitive and the affective, they develop numerous models. These include the Abrahamic Theological Dialogue (a confessional/forgiveness model that values ritual); an advocacy/action model that focusses on practical outcomes; and their favoured Religious Transformation model, which has an ?evolutionary? underpinning. Within this final model, four worldviews are defined before the chapter concludes with a list of best practices for Interfaith Dialogue.

Chapters 3 through 6 investigate inter-religious activity within five particular Middle Eastern societies ? Israel and Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan. The final chapter makes a comparison between these societies, a list of recommendations for improvement, and offers best practices based on the Interfaith Dialogues used within the societies listed. The book concludes with two appendices, one offering a list of acronyms used; the second a directory of organisations as well as a bibliography and subject index.

The contributions of this ground-breaking work are numerous: an inventory of IFD activities in the Middle East, a framework for categorising approaches and models of IFD, perhaps the first inter-country comparison of IFD activities, and the creation of a best practices list for an emerging field of study. This work will assuredly be valuable to both interfaith practitioners and academics studying the field. Other contributions would also have been welcome. For example, an acknowledgment that dialogue generally has a longer academic history than is visible in the literature review. Very few theologians or academics in Communication Studies are referenced throughout. This is in contrast to the larger field of literature produced on the topic. Similarly, dialogue methodologies are being used for working with class, race, and gender issues. Is there anything we can learn from these processes that applies to IFD? Finally, though named in, but outside the scope of this study, it would be of interest to understand how country and cultural histories (and particular issues such as the Crusades, the Holocaust, the creation of Israel, neo-colonialism and globalisation for example) affect the practice and perception of IFD within specific countries.

The authors present an engaging foundation for future Interfaith Dialogue work. Unity in Diversity is an excellent resource for those interested in inter-religious peacebuilding

Korey Dyck, M.Litt/PhD, Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College

Disclaimer: © INCORE 2010 Last Updated on Monday, 10-Aug-2015 12:20
contact usgoto the search page
go to the top of this page