Professor Leonard Swidler is one of the most revered figures in interreligious dialogue in the U.S. At Temple University in Philadelphia, where he has taught since 1966, he has expanded his work from ecumenical dialogue among Christians, to Jewish/ Christian dialogue, to the whole spectrum of interreligious conversation. He is founder of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies and the Dialogue Institute. He is the author of the Dialogue Decalogue, which offers an essential foundation for interreligious dialogue. Joshua Stanton, Editor-in-Chief, interviewed Swidler for Interreligious Dialogue, the website for the Journal of Interreligious Dialogue. Swidler described the trajectory of his interfaith experience, a path that is familiar to many who find themselves engaged in dialogue:
Swidler: It began as intra-Christian dialogue. But post-Vatican II, it broke out of the box. We started dialoguing with Jews… and once you turned away from looking inward and started looking outward, it developed a kind of momentum to keep going…. We needed to find ways to translate theory into action in life in organizations and institutions.
Stanton What’s in store for the Dialogue Institute in the future?
Swidler: Three years ago we received substantial funding to expand our staff…. Despite the current economy, you can expect to see us expand even more in the future. We have three major initiatives planned: one with Israeli women - Jewish, Christian, and Muslim – of al-Qasemi Academy, which is a teachers college primarily for Arab women… another is with Saudi professors, who are also coming for a week of training… and a third is interreligious dialogue a training for all U.S. Military Chaplains in Europe, and for two different combat brigades about to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan
More broadly, we hope to bring together religious figures and leaders and global business. These are the two most powerful forces for change in the world. We tend to think of them as antithetical rather than working together. But they can and should be brought together.
Read the rest of the interview, and about the work of Leonard Swidler: