I think it is good that interfaith dialogues are practised in countries like Canada and Singapore. The government of Singapore particularly supports such practices or sessions as it helps promote harmony and peace among people of different faiths or religions.
According to this website, the prime minister of Singapore said during an interfaith dialogue:
“When we get to know one another, we not only appreciate how others in different religious communities encounter the divine, but also enhance our understanding of our own religion. In the process, we will widen the common ground which we all share together.”
– PM Lee Hsien Loong
I agree that it also widens the common ground which we all share together. As noted in this website about the seven stages of deep dialogue, a potential outcome of having learnt from different faiths is that we all will not only get to cross over and enter into the world of one another’s faith, and return to our own basic belief system with an expanded vision, we will also experience a paradigm shift in our mindset. Over time, it will contribute to global awakening and transformation of life and behaviour, as the collective consciousness of people evolves and the communion we experience with all – self, others and the Earth – causes us to show care and concern for ourselves and others as an integral whole.
Studying about buddhism and new thought philosophy, for example, helps me understand the gospel in new ways, such as universal salvation in terms of awakening and enlightenment, to see God in everyone, and we are Love, created to express His love by serving one another.
I also learnt from the Scarborough Missions website about guidelines for deep interfaith dialogues that such dialogues differ from debates in that dialogues seek to unify and understand people rather than divide and discriminate people.
In addition, as much as I benefit from learning about other faiths or belief systems like buddhism, such as meditation and mindfulness, I believe people of other faiths or belief systems can benefit from learning about the gospel of grace and peace, because grace or undeserved favour is something unique to christianity, since Jesus came to show the world what grace or unconditional love is, that transcends the natural law of cause and effect (or karma).
People who encounter grace will find hope in their life and not dwell on the past and try to figure out whether they or others have done something bad that might determine their present circumstances – they will simply love and care for themselves and one another because we are all divine beings on a human journey – grace puts everyone on equal ground and does not categorise anyone according to their deeds or misdeeds.
Grace also motivates people to show unconditional love out of overflow of having experienced God’s unconditional love, not expecting anything in return, which differs from the deserving system that most, if not all, other faiths or belief systems, operate under. So yea, it helps me appreciate more the beauty of grace, as much as I appreciate learning more about other belief systems that opens my horizon to see the gospel of grace in new or different ways.
On the other hand, a Buddhist monk who has participated in interfaith dialogues in Singapore for many years felt that there is still a long way to go for people of different faiths to come to understand and accept one another’s differences in belief systems, particularly those who have not participated or do not believe in participating in such dialogues (and I used to subscribe to that kind of mindset about 3-4 years ago too). I am glad my mindset has been broadened ever since I learn about universalism, and I am seeing the value of interfaith dialogues – yea, let us hope it becomes more widely accepted in future, to promote peace and harmony.
Ultimately, I am learning to see that Love transcends any boundary or doctrine or belief system as it is a common thread that binds humanity. It ties in with what we learnt about interfaith dialogues, as well as the fact that paradise is here on earth, so we all can practise compassion and serve one another in the here and now. We are all made in Love’s image. Christ is in the present moment and is in everyone. Grace or unconditional love destroys the illusion of separation and unites us as one body of Christ. Love is all around us – we can know and experience and live the life of love.