Interfaith work and outreach is a phenomenon requiring an appreciation for complexity and simplicity. The simplicity is discovered in the human capacity to reverence and love all people. This rather “simple” intention becomes complex when referring to “real” people in the “real” world. We cannot love others apart from the “real” persons they are. Consequently, we must become aware of the dignity and beauty of the other person precisely as a person in their own religious and cultural context not to mention their political and economic circumstances.
Individual persons stand uniquely within the traditions from which they come. A person, then, is appreciated “within” the context from which they arise. The complexity of interfaith work appreciates, celebrates, and delights in this discovery of the other person precisely as a person of beauty, dignity, and mystery. One should never conclude another person has been fully discovered or appreciated. Such a search belongs to the enterprise we call life and it is a lifelong journey.
In the final analysis, the religious “other” becomes companion on the road of life. We need not and cannot become the same. Our difference reveals the splendor of what it means to be alive, rich, and varied.
Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.