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On Common Ground

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Wanted: Open dialogue among different faiths

Effort under way to gather a group of women to share diverse spiritual paths.

Barbara Thiede

Any religion professing the goal of perfecting the world to enable the victory of life over death should enthusiastically welcome any and all other faiths willing to partner with it in such a daunting task.

– Irving Greenberg, “For the Sake of Heaven and Earth”

Lately, I have been surprised by the number of people who say the same beautiful thing in different ways.

God speaks to different peoples differently, they say. There are many messengers and many modes of delivery for Divine inspiration. God can love each child infinitely without loving any less. No one faith possesses all of God's truth.

So why don't we talk more with each other?

Why don't we share more of what moves us to service, to prayer, to finding out how together we can help heal the world's pain?

Maybe we don't know we are calling out to one another.

Nancy Barkemeyer wrote me awhile back. She has a project in mind: A women's group made up of people who come from all faith traditions.

“I am very interested in finding a group of women that… want to study and dialogue … in search of understanding each other's religions,” she wrote, “and supporting each other in their own spiritual journeys. I am Christian, Presbyterian, and have a firm belief that none of us have all the answers.”

Last week, I asked whether some special experience had moved her to reach out to women of other faith groups.

“It's been an ongoing process,” Barkemeyer told me. “ … We all walk a certain path, and … it's very important for us to have a relationship with each other as we walk that path, because we are all God's children.

“We are all living in this world together,” she said, “and we don't understand each other because we don't know each other very well.”

It's an old truth. You can't talk to someone if you don't sit down together and listen up. In this world – where religious fanaticism destroys communities, murders children in their schools and executes women for the crime of independence – we need to make greater efforts to communicate.

We want the same things: Safety, nourishment, health care, security for our families.

“The people we know the very least about are the people we need to understand better,” she said. “Beginning with what we have in common is very important.”

If you are interested in joining a women's interfaith dialogue, send Nancy Barkemeyer a note at nhbarkemeyer@hotmail.com. She is looking for diversity, openness, understanding.

“For it to be meaningful, it needs to be people of all faiths and all callings,” she said.

God knows she's right.

Barbara Thiede teaches in the UNCCharlotte Department of Religious Studies. E-mail her at barbara.thiede@earthlink.net.

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