- Sharing Wisdom: Benefits and Boundaries of Interreligious Learning by Alon Goshen-Gottstein, and: Learning to Live Together: Case Studies in Interfaith Diversity by Tom Wilson and Riaz Ravat, and: The Other Peace Process: Interreligious Dialogue, a View from Jerusalem by Ronald Kronish
The books by Wilson/Ravat and Goshen-Gottstein both deal with interreligious relations among the world's great religions, while Kronish centers on Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations in Israel. Wilson and Ravat narrate the programs of the St. Philip's Centre in Leicester, England, ranging from formal and informal dialogues to joint educational efforts and working together to meet the social and other needs of the community as a whole. Leicester, which dates back to Roman times, is a religiously and ethnically diverse community, almost half of which is non-Christian. It contains Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, and various other, smaller religious communities, whose beliefs and practices are each briefly described. The Leicester Model of social integration is summarized as achieving the goal of "Living Well Together," a goal not only of interaction between and among differing religious communities but within them as well. A number of case studies illustrate the efforts of the St. Philip's Centre, with varying results, to bring people together in order to celebrate their differences and develop common programs for the greater good of all.
Goshen-Gottstein brings together papers presented at a meeting of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders that was hosted by the Dalai Lama and Bhai Sabib Bhai Mohinder Singh in Amritsar, India, on the theme of sharing wisdom within and among the world's religions. Six scholars, each speaking for his or her own religion, present the understanding of wisdom in their own traditions and how they can relate to and understand the meaning of wisdom in [End Page 141] the other traditions, which include Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism. The editor sums up the six presentations with an insightful presentation of what they have in common and where this might lead for future interreligious dialogues and cooperation. Again, readers will delight in brief and meaningful introductions to and analyses of the world's religions and become better prepared for dialogues in which they might participate in the future.
These two books provide illuminating and challenging reading. They deepen understanding and challenge readers to act to take the next step and organize or participate in dialogues and joint action programs in their own communities. Read together, they offer practical advice and scholarly thought and are highly recommended.
Kronish is the recently retired Founding Director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, which he led for a quarter of a century. His book details his personal involvement in what is one of the most significant interreligious dialogues in the world, the relations between the Jewish and Muslim communities in Israel and the surrounding areas, as well as relations with the small Christian minority and its contacts with the larger Christian communities around the world. The difference between the dialogues and programs described by Kronish and those of the other two books reviewed here is that, as the author states repeatedly, the dialogues in the Middle East can have—and in many cases do have—a positive influence on the ongoing, crucial, and difficult peace process between Israel and Palestine. Lives are quite literally at stake. While not political in nature, these religious "peacebuilding" dialogues can help bring about better understanding of the needs of the "other" communities and help indirectly the peacemaking efforts of diplomats and political leaders of their respective communities.
Kronish begins with a brief autobiography, narrating how he became a "humanistic/progressive/liberal/Zionist" rabbi and how and why he and his wife made aliyah, moving "up" to live in Israel...