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10 Guidelines for Sound Dialog between Religions

Put all your cards on the table

We can only come to know about other people’s spirituality and religion if we are willing to make clear our own standpoint. Neutrality may degenerate us into religious Peeping Toms' Therefore put all your cards on the table!

No spiteful caricature

Other people’s religious beliefs and attitudes must be evaluated on the basis of their own assumptions, not on ours. Do not make a caricature of other people’s faith.

Call a spade a spade

Evasive politeness and narrow-minded aggressivity is beside the point. Straightforward honesty is the only way. Go for the ball and not for the man. Call a spade a spade.

To respect is not to accept

Remember that just as you hold something sacred, similarly other people have their sacred traditions. You must respect your neighbor’s right to his convictions, as you expect him to respect yours. That does not mean that you accept his convictions or vice versa. To respect is not to accept.

Honor the spiritual parents

This respect must include the spiritual parents of the other party. Not all people have good parents, but parents they have. And it is not our business to tackle that problem. One should never provoke defensiveness.

Respect begets respect

By respect one is entitled to expect honesty and a straightforward openness from others. Any dishonesty in recruiting new members must be unmasked and any suppression of personal freedom and integrity must be exposed.

Never tolerate abuse

Many people and organizations misuse religion as a cover for their own interests and ambitions. Religious manipulation is common. There should be no tolerance of such practice. Manipulators must be exposed. Misuse of religious authority should never be tolerated.

Open accounts is a must

is often used as a cover for economic exploitation and fraud. All religious communities must be interested in putting an end to such misuse by declaring that they are willing to publicly present open accounts of all their financial transactions.

Self-portraits should be realistic

Religious communities should be encouraged to be critical and objective in the way they present themselves to the public. Surprisingly often they are not honest or straightforward at all. The public image is often glaringly different from internal realities. To unmask such inconsistencies is a mutual task.

Twoway communication is needed.

Mutual "Religionskritik" should serve the noble cause of fairness. A dialog among civilized people can in the best sense of the word be a creative and objective activity. It need not be aggressive and polemic. Religious groups should in such bona fide mutuality be able to co-exist in peace without compromising their convictions. From a basis of mutual critique and vigilance a genuine dialog can result - one characterized by arguments, not by accusations and suspicion.

Nota Bene: during the Conference on New Religions in Amsterdam, August 1987, arranged by the world Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation and with active participation from the Vatican, it was proposed by this author and unanimously accepted that arrangements should be prepared for a future conference with participation from churches and religions which operate on a bona fide basis, and some of the new religious movements in order to set up a religious Helsinki-declaration. But so far nothing has come of the decision.

The idea is still highly relevant and to the point and calls for action in order to prepare a real dialog between partners who are willing to engage in mutual "Religionskritik".