Interfaith probably has as many definitions as people using the term, however there are 3 main ways it’s used – the first is to describe a kind of dialogue between individuals from different faith traditions, ie “interfaith dialogue”. In that case, the people involved attempt to understand another’s faith tradition (and their experience of that faith tradition) to come to some common ground, through dialogue. Most people who engage in interfaith dialogue say that there’s an unexpected benefit in that they find that their experience of their own faith tradition is deepened through the process.
The second way the term is used is to describe the movement based on interfaith dialogue, the “interfaith movement”, in other words, an active commitment by leaders of faith traditions to engage with other traditions in an organised way – often there’s a particular program or initiative that becomes the vehicle for the process, such as within the United Nations, or individual governments or government bodies.
The third way it’s used is a bit more complex. Most of the people on this blog site’s Directory are called “Interfaith Ministers” because they’ve studied at an interfaith seminary or similar institution (some universities have degrees in divinity, for example, which include subjects in different faith traditions). See this blog’s page “Interfaith Seminaries & Education”.
Like any seminary, ordination as a Minister is the outcome, but the core curriculum is what’s commonly called “comparative religion”, ie all the major faiths are studied and compared, as well as units in pastoral care, counselling, psychology, ceremonies and rites – but it’s a process which is both academic and experiential. The curriculum also includes reflective processes where the student examines her own value systems, ethical dilemmas, responses to the academic material etc and these processes often confront, and usually deepen the student’s experience of their faith tradition. Interfaith seminary students are Hindu, Zen Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Moslem, Tibetan Buddhist, Sufi…. on and on… and students don’t change their faith, but take their interfaith seminary training back into their faith communities with a deepened experience and heightened sensitivity to other faiths.
In this way, Interfaith becomes a pathway of justice, compassion and peacemaking.
Interfaithnet posts interfaith, multifaith and spiritually-based events, commentary and activities which celebrate pluralism, diversity and inclusiveness while sharing our common humanity.