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As from May 28 last the status of Dialogue Ireland (DI) in relation to the four main Christian Churches has changed. DI no longer acts in a representative capacity for the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church and the Methodist Church. This change is significant in that the leaders of the Churches are not deemed responsible for DI's activities. They are, however, continuing to support our organization and for this we are very grateful. The membership of DI will continue to be drawn from the mainline Churches. This increased autonomy gives DI greater freedom in pursuing its mission. Our new status means that the views we express will be those of Dialogue Ireland (a charitable trust) and may not necessarily be those of the supporting Churches.

Dialogue Ireland is not an 'anti-cult' organization. It is true that we receive many calls from people who perceive themselves or a family member as being victims of 'cultist' activity. It was in fact a sense of pastoral concern for such people that prompted a group of Irish Christians in 1988 to provide an ecumenical response to the challenge of NRMs and New Age on the island of Ireland. And so Dialogue Ireland was born. Today, as much as at any time in the past twenty years, people are turning to DI for guidance and support following the involvement of a family member in a problematic group situation. Such a situation can be unbelievably painful for the people involved. Some have compared it to the death of a loved one without the funeral. Fortunately, most incidences of people joining a new movement are much less dramatic than this.

As its name implies, the starting point of Dialogue Ireland's mission is to seek to enter into dialogue with New Religious and New Age Movements. This will necessitate the study both of the movements themselves and also the world religions that have given rise to them. We recognize the good intentions of the people who run these groups and acknowledge that in many instances the Church has much to learn from them. However, in the case of a small number of movements this dialogue may be difficult to achieve. It will on occasion have to be dialogue-in-confrontation and may be exercised in the form of public debate. Our reason for taking such a step arises from the conviction that the public has a right to know how people can be affected as a result of joining a particular organization. When we do reluctantly find it necessary to go public on a group, it is always the aim of DI to speak the truth in a spirit of genuine Christian love for the members and leaders of the movement in question, as well as their families.

In the light of our new status, an extraordinary general meeting of DI will take place on Thursday, October 3rd next at 8 PM. The venue will be Isaac's Hotel in Store Street, Dublin 2. This will be an open meeting, to which all those who are interested in supporting the mission of DI are invited. The future strategy for the development of the organization will be discussed. For further information you may contact any of the following members of the interim committee:



The events of last September made everyone aware of how little we knew about Islam here in Ireland. The Islamic community has been growing steadily over the past decade. Now and again we heard stories of its life in places such as Ballyhaunis where they have integrated into the local community, or in Dublin when President Mary Robinson opened a primary school. In general however, Islam and Muslims have been a largely invisible minority.

All that changed with September 11, when suddenly a very disordered version of Islam was pushed into our faces. The effect of this was to bring Islam in Ireland out of the shadows and into the public eye. Our Taoiseach went to visit one of the mosques and called for tolerance towards our Muslim neighbours in Ireland. We need to remember also that two hundred Muslims were murdered in the Twin Towers!

All of this was a wake up call to us in Dialogue Ireland as well. Although I had taken an interest in Islam for many decades, we decided to contact all the mosques in Dublin. This led to a number of meetings including my own participation in an ecumenical event in Drogheda in December when Christians joined Muslims in fasting on the last day of Ramadan. Following our conferences on New Age and Evangelicals a few years ago we thought it would be a good idea to have our conference this year focus on 'Understanding Islam'. Just before Christmas I spoke in the Milltown mosque and by June we had organised a well-rounded conference which was to be co-hosted by the Irish School of Ecumenics and at which the leaders of the different mosques in Dublin had agreed to speak, and with Canon Des Sinnamon of Taney Church of Ireland parish giving a Christian perspective on Islam. Sadly this was not to be.

In early July I received a call to tell me that the three Muslim leaders had changed their minds as a result of advice they had received and that they no longer wished to participate in the conference. I asked for a written explanation, but to date have received nothing. I also offered to discuss any misgiving they might have. There has so far been no response.

In early July I received a call to tell me that the three Muslim leaders had changed their minds as a result of advice they had received and that they no longer wished to participate in the conference. I asked for a written explanation, but to date have received nothing. I also offered to discuss any misgiving they might have. There has so far been no response.

Our interim chairperson Louis Hughes attempted to salvage the conference by writing to the heads of the three mosques. I quote from his letter: When we decided last November to make "Understanding Islam" the theme for this year's annual conference, September 11 was uppermost in our minds. We were motivated by our perception that people generally in this country as elsewhere were not well informed about the Muslim Faith. In particular we were concerned that Islam might be identified in some people's minds with fringe groups of fanatics such as Al Qaeda and that this might (and indeed has) led to decent peaceful Muslims being subjected to verbal and physical harassment as a result of ignorance on the part of non-Muslims.

At the time we took (and still hold) the view that our conference should provide the opportunity for senior Muslim representatives in Ireland to explain their Faith to Irish people, and that the people in turn could address their questions and concerns to these representatives - all of this to take place in an atmosphere of friendship and dialogue and leading to a greater public understanding in this country of Islam. I regret that our agenda now appears to have been misunderstood by some people.

In a spirit of dialogue it is on occasion necessary for us to address the issue of 'cultism' or the use of abusive mental techniques in a religious context, whether the context be Christian (e.g. within the Pilgrim House Community, Magnificat Meal Movement or Dublin Church of Christ) or Muslim (e.g. Al Qaeda). This is not done in either an anti-Christian or an anti-Muslim spirit. We are a Christian organization and we believe that true religious believers need the opportunity to distance themselves from abuses carried out in the name of their Faith that they hold so dear.

In light of the decision of the mosques to withdraw from the conference we have decided to proceed with a conference on Islam, but from a more Christian perspective. We hope and pray that at some point in the future we may realize the dialogue that was so nearly achieved this time. Personally I will continue the relationships made over the past year with Muslims at all the Dublin mosques and hope to introduce our new conference speakers to Muslims in Ireland when they are here. We would have preferred to have a dialogue with the representatives of Islam here in Ireland. This has proved impossible at this stage. We are grateful that we have been able to invite two speakers based in the UK who will help us to understand the world of Islam.

They are:

Dr Elsie Maxwell

Has been with Arab World Ministries since 1963 and has worked for 27 years in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. Since 1984 she has been working amongst Arabs in London while teaching Islamic courses at the London Bible College.

Jay Smith

Grew up in India and has served as a missionary in Japan, France, and Senegal. After completing a ThM in missiology (principally Islam) at Fuller Seminary, USA he is now working amongst Muslims in London, particularly at Hyde Park Speakers' Corner. He is also doing a Ph.D. in the sources of Islam at London Bible College and teaching apologetics/polemics on university campuses both in the UK and the USA, and spoke at the Royal College of Surgeons last year.


Issues like what Islam says about Jesus and the Trinity divide us. Even though none of the bible was translated into Arabic until after Mohammed's time, he did have access to Jewish and Christian oral traditions (though Muslims dispute this). For example one of his wives was a Jewess and another was a nominal Christian from Ethiopia. Having to depend on oral traditions and being acquainted with unorthodox forms of Christianity accounts for the fact that Muhammad in the Qur'an misunderstood the Christian teaching concerning the Trinity. In Sura 5:73 They disbelieve who say: Allah is one of three (In a Trinity:) for there is No god except one God. If they desist not from their word(blasphemy),

Verily a grievous chastisement will befall the disbelievers among them.

In Sura 5: 116 He goes on to say, "And behold! Allah will say: "O Jesus the son of Mary!

Did you say to mankind? 'Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah'? He will say: Glory to You! Never would I say what I have no right to say.

Muhammad thought that Christians worshipped a trinity of a holy family, which included God the Father, Mary the Mother of Jesus and the Son. For this reason the Qur'an attacks the sonship of Christ stating that 'God neither begets or is begotten'.

Another misunderstanding which seems to have come from the influence of Jewish or heretical Christian teaching was the denial of the crucifixion of Christ. The Qur'an in Sura 4:156 states 'They did not kill him, and he was not crucified, though some were under the illusion that he had been crucified'.

In conformity with the Christian creed the Qur'an teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin, worked miracles, was the Messiah, lived a sinless life, was assumed into heaven and is coming again before the end of the world.


Dialogue Ireland obtained charitable status as a Trust late last year. We are currently examing forming a limited company to have better protection in relation to libel. In conjunction with the Milltown Institute's department of Spirituality DI is hoping to participate in a research project on the study of New Religious Movements. I am hoping to do an MA as part of this project and we are very excited with the open door we have received from Sr. Bernadette Flanagan as we begin this new venture. This is very much part of our vision to see World Religions getting more prominence at third level and our specific focus of looking at the NRM's that have arisen from these great World Religions.

For the second year running we have participated in the Festival of Mind, Body and Spirit at the RDS. This has given us an insight into the new forms of spirituality that are now present among us.

As our chairperson has written in his editorial we are having an open evening to look at the future of Dialogue Ireland. We invite any of our readers who have an interest in the study of Religion to join us!

Mike Garde
Field Worker.


Booking Form 2002-2003

The best group to present my talk to are the sixth years who are about to go to College. The best arrangement is do a number of schools in an area, e.g. Waterford, over a couple of days. This cuts the overall cost to you and is more effective time-wise. Wednesdays and Thursdays are not available due to child-care and academic commitments - unless by arrangement in advance.

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Please send or fax to
Mike Garde,
Dialogue Ireland,
7/8 Lower Abbey Street,
Dublin 1
or telephone for more information to (01) 830 9384/(087) 239 6229 Fax (01) 874 4913

Email dialogueireland@esatclear.ie

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