One of the most urgent initiatives in the world today is interfaith dialogue. I know many good Christians, several Muslims, even more agnostics and atheists who have made an invaluable difference in my life. They are my friends and mentors, and I hope I’ve done enough that they may see me in a likeminded way. Dialogue isn’t something theoretical, although it is a popular topic in theological seminaries and philosophy departments these days.
What really stimulates dialogue is rarely an intellectual insight but an unexpected encounter with the Other, one that catches you off-guard in its spontaneity and naturalness. That was one of the main themes during and after our Buddhist delegation’s trip to Turkey. With so many friendships forged and bridges built, it’s no wonder that the articles we commissioned share a common idea: the common ground we share is right beneath us; we simply need to take off our artificial shoes and walk barefoot so we really feel it.
Under the Turkish Sky is a discussion about the dazzling shades of blue that permeate Istanbul life. One of our trip members, John, was so determined to make the most out of being in an Islamic culture that he also participated in Ramadan. Our exchange with Turkish Muslim families prompted reflections about the Islamic faith, from a Buddhist perspective. All of us admired Rumi’s beautiful poetry and profound teaching, whilst some of us were more inclined to philosophical questions about Buddhism in the light of Islamic doctrines or how we can plant seeds of understanding in this horrifically fractured world, where great violence and tremendous suffering is inflicted on a daily basis because people just won’t sit down in one room and talk to one another.
Finally, to round everything up, Buddhistdoor International is hosting, in collaboration with the CBSAA, an interfaith dialogue at the Jockey Club Tower in The University of Hong Kong this November. We will have distinguished guests like Professor Lee (who, many may not know, is an aficionado of Turkey and has written books about the Turkic culture) and Ven. Dhammapala talking about their experiences of Turkish and Muslim culture, as well as representatives from the Pearl Institute (Formerly knwon as Anatolia Cultural and Dialogue Centre) coming to join in the sharing. Registration is absolutely free too. If you are in Hong Kong, don’t miss out on this rare chance for a Buddhist-Muslim exchange in Asia’s world city. I promise this will be a special encounter indeed.