A typical way to begin interfaith activities is to hold interfaith dialogues, where people talk about the teachings and practices of their respective faith communities. While this can be beneficial in some ways, I observe that such communication is largely cerebral. Interfaith dialogues are best reserved for a later stage in interfaith peacemaking.
I have found that the following four steps for interfaith peacemaking work best. Each begins with the letter S:
Sup: First, sup together. Ask participants to bring their favorite dishes. Have each person talk about his/her favorite dish. Why is it a favorite? Maybe someone in the family handed down the recipe, or maybe there are other fond memories attached to the dish. Table conversation tends to be relaxed and intimate, a good first step in making friends from other traditions.
Serve together. Identify something that needs to get done in your community, something fairly simple and manageable. Organize a service day to accomplish this task. Before departing, while the experience is still fresh, take some time to talk about why you participated. From a faith perspective, what was it that motivated you to serve?
Study together. Now you’re ready to dialogue with interfaith friends about each one’s beliefs and practices. Because you have already come to know each other through the stomach and the heart, your intellectual exploration will be deeper, more integrated with other ways of knowing.
Seek together, seek what it means to live life fully and well in your vicinity. Some participants will choose to couch this question in terms of seeking God’s will. You may have avid interfaith participants who are not theists, which is why I put the question in the first form. The point is, now that you have become friends at several levels of consciousness, seek spiritual wisdom together. You’re ready for this!