Today different religions, which at one time could have looked at other faiths with aloof superiority, have been thrown together in a way that demands dialogue and peaceful co-existence. Whatever our religion, we live in a world in which family breakdown, escalating crime, stress and depression go hand in hand with a naïve pursuit of happiness through material prosperity. Many feel that it is a society powered by greed that has lost its sense of direction.
It has always been the responsibility of our different religions to give moral direction and remind us of ethical imperatives for sane, balanced and responsible living. Never before has the need been greater; nor the opportunities. Wider educational opportunities and near instant communications can clearly help our individual faiths to provide sound guidance for the young. More importantly, they can enable different faiths that find themselves in close physical proximity, as in Britain today, to work together for the common good. Interfaith dialogue has never been more important. It is only through understanding our neighbor’s faith that we can learn about and rejoice in the values we hold in common, whilst at the same time respecting sensitive differences.
There is however a real difficulty in dialogue. Some religions, notably, Christianity and Islam, have missionary zeal, which some see as a missionary imperative to convert others to their religion; to the ‘one true faith’. This can make dialogue, at best difficult and at worst impossible. In contradistinction, the Sikh Gurus taught that God is not interested in religious labels and that no one religion has a monopoly of truth