What Makes Interfaith Dialogue Possible?

Because religions make claims about the truth, the beliefs of any one religion necessarily contradict some of the claims of another. Yet devotees of different faiths have found ways to live together in peace and even engage in meaningful religious dialogue. Daniel Johnson delves into the problems inherent in interreligious dialogue in general, and Jewish-Catholic dialogue in particular, and speculates about the possibilities of including Muslims. He writes:

Perhaps the overriding intellectual imperative of a globalized world, in which no culture can hope to isolate itself or to avoid the encounter with others, is to make it possible for those holding different and potentially antagonistic beliefs to live in peace with one another. This is a particular duty for those whose vocation it is to teach with authority, whether sacerdotal or academic; yet it is a duty that is almost always shirked. . . . Taking responsibility not only for what is taught but for what follows from the teaching, for what is done in the name of religion or ideology, seems to pose an almost insuperable challenge for the guardians of doctrine.

Yet doctrine, “teaching” or “that which is taught,” implies, like the cognate term “doctor,” worldly as well as spiritual authority. . . . How then may the arbiters and exponents of doctrine be persuaded to soften their orthodoxy sufficiently to open up a space in which competing claims to truth may be resolved or not, as the case may be, but in any case without bloodshed?

Read more at Standpoint

More about: Christianity, Interfaith dialogue, Jewish-Catholic relations, Judaism, Muslim-Christian relations, Religion

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood