Five young people—the winners of a recent WCC essay competition on “The Future of Interreligious Dialogue”—spoke with Rev. Dr Wesley Ariarajah, former deputy general secretary of the WCC and director of the Dialogue programme, and Dr Clare Amos, former WCC programme coordinator of Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation.
The essay contest winners are Lea Schlenker from Germany, Kritsno Saptenno from Indonesia, Ioannis Christodoulakis originally from Greece, Nicole Kallsen from the United States and Christopher West from Ireland.
The publication “Faith(s) Seeking Justice: Dialogue and Liberation” was also released during the conversation. Edited by Rev. Dr Peniel Rajkumar, WCC programme coordinator for Interreligious Dialogue, the volume celebrates a common confidence that dialogue can be linked to liberation in ways that can be both faithful and fruitful.
WCC acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca said the conversation allowed participants not only to revisit the past but to “envision the future in a spirit of hope, trusting in God’s faithfulness.”
During the past decades and though the present, the WCC has “embarked on a search of fresh understanding, new questions and better expressions of our faith and new commitment in a multi-religious world,” Sauca said. “The last 50 years bear rich testimony to the development of the WCC’s commitment and engagement in interreligious relationships.”
Ariarajah reflected that the history of interreligious dialogue goes back to the first world mission conference in 1910. “We have had grave misunderstandings,” he said, “but we have created dialogue partners, and having the possibility of engaging with others was a long process.”
Amos said that when she arrived at the WCC about a decade ago, the Ecumenical Centre received visitors from around the world. “Hopefully, one day soon, it will be possible for such groups to visit once again,” she said, as COVID-19 restrictions lift. “When asked what areas of work these visitors would like to hear about, most made clear that interreligious dialogue was one of their concerns.”
Christodoulakis discussed his prizewinning essay from the perspective of the Greek Orthodox Church. “Orthodoxy by itself is a very rich and complex topic which is hard to put in few words,” he said. “The church as a body Christ includes the whole human existence regardless of the gender, the nation, or the religion.”
The young people had an opportunity to briefly share salient points of their prizewinning essays as a starting point for the conversation. The essays in their fuller form will subsequently be published in Current Dialogue, the WCC’s journal for interreligious encounter.