Interreligious Dialogue and Its Moral Limits

Jan. 24 2017

Reviewing Ephraim Meir’s Interreligious Theology: Its Value and Mooring in Modern Jewish Philosophy, Peter Berger launches into a discussion of the extent to which religious faith can accommodate pluralism. Berger praises the idea of the book’s title—interfaith cooperation that goes beyond mere dialogue—but argues that such attempts to transcend religious differences should go only so far:

John Hicks (1922-2012), the British Protestant theologian who wrote influential books about interreligious dialogue, created a very telling metaphor: we need a “Copernican revolution” in theology—instead of looking at the earth/our own faith as the center around which everything revolves, we should see our faith as one of several planets revolving around the sun of ultimate reality. Each planet provides an instructive perspective on that reality.

It is a very attractive picture, but it leaves out one possibility—that some planets may not look at the sun at all, but are facing away from it. If all perspectives are equally true, there is no truth at all. I think that such sharp alternatives appear in . . . the dialogue . . . between the perceptions of reality emerging from the religious experience of the Indian subcontinent and the perceptions of the monotheistic faiths that originated in the Middle East. Still, I want to emphasize that this dialogue, too, could occur [amicably].

But there could be a rather less amicable reason for saying “no” to a dialogue—a moral reason. This could be . . . because one wants to have nothing to do with the putative interlocutor: I don’t think I would want to enter into dialogue with whatever degenerate imams legitimate the hell on earth being instituted by Islamic State in the areas it controls in Iraq and Syria. Or suppose there still survived the cult of human sacrifice that existed in Mesoamerica in pre-Colombian times. Imagine, say, that a delegation of Aztec theologians were welcomed to an interreligious conference at the World Council of Churches in Geneva: “Thank you very much for coming to this conference. We are greatly looking forward to hearing your paper explaining why the gods have to be fed by the blood of sacrificial victims. . . .”

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at American Interest

More about: Idolatry, Interfaith dialogue, ISIS, Jewish Thought, Relativism, Religion

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy