By Blaine Tang, UWTSD Harmony Interfaith Scholar
Due to the contradictions and conflicts among different ethnic groups, one of the biggest challenges is how to carry out successful religious dialogue. This is not a new problem. For thousands of years of “civilized” history, through countless bloodshed and tears, the will and the ability to create a successful religious dialogue has proved elusive.
Our societies are experiencing an accelerating process of modernization; its subsequent suffering of environmental pollution, resource depletion, urban congestion and escalating crime is a global tragedy, a scourge on our collective soul. The alleviation or elimination of this suffering, however, can provide for an increase of cooperation among traditional religions, as well as offering considerable possibilities for dialogue.
Additionally, the secularization along with modernity challenges the influence and function of religions. Optimistically, there is considerable interest in the various religions when dealing with these challenges, which also facilitates the dialogue. Although different religions have a great variety of doctrines, worship rituals and various forms of expression, they have some common characteristics, such as the recognition of the supernatural, transcendent or mysterious beings, as well as a belief in the divine or ultimate good. This commonality becomes the deepest foundation for the possibility of dialogue.
Although there are still various of forces and statements advocating conservatism and closure in religious circles, the trend of supporting reform and progressive measures is rapidly developing. Historic changes and the development of globalization in the 21st century is stimulating this growth trend, as well as compelling different religions to step up their cooperation to face common problems. Therefore, the dialogue among religions – and the adherents of these diverse religions – will draw more closely together. Because it relates to the “global village,” the residents of Planet Earth can live in harmony and cooperate in delight. After all, we here on this planet are alone in the midst of a vast universe and have not yet found a second village to live in. Unless we find a backup planet, we had better learn to get along!