Dr. Ahmadreza Meftah's presentation: Exclusivism and the Possibility of Interreligious Dialogue
18 February 2024
Dr. Ahmadreza Meftah's presentation: Exclusivism and the Possibility of Interreligious Dialogue

Here is the English abstract of Ahmadreza Meftah (Faculty Member, Department of Abrahamic Religions, University of Religions and Denominations, Qom, Iran)'s presentation at the 12nd pre-con meeting of the conference “Imam Reza (PBUH) and Interreligious Dialogue" which was held in  University of Religions and Denominations (Qom, Iran) on  December 20, 2023.



Exclusivism and the Possibility of Interreligious Dialogue

The interreligious dialogue, in its sense compared to the debates and disputes that were common in the past, is a new paradigm shift and is counted among the new issues of Christian theology. Most theorists in this field, such as John Hick, Raymond Panikkar, Leonard Swidler, Hans Küng, and Paul Knitter, have intricately woven the nature of interreligious dialogue with a pluralistic approach. They define interreligious dialogue in a way that both sides must be willing to accept the truth and even be open to change and transformation. The challenge lies in how interreligious dialogue is possible given the lack of acceptance of their presuppositions by the majority of religious followers who have an exclusivist approach. The claim is that although interreligious dialogue is not easily achievable with an exclusivist approach and is not even feasible among fundamentalist exclusivists, with a realistic definition of dialogue that preserves religious identity and considers appropriate goals, dialogue is possible. It should be noted that interreligious dialogue is even more necessary among exclusivists. Nevertheless, even with an exclusivist approach, one can have both epistemological dialogue and functional dialogue. Epistemological dialogue can, at the very least, help with better understanding of one's own tradition and overcoming misunderstandings. At a higher level, this form of dialogue is theorized by Catholic theologians like Francis Clooney, Catherine Cornille, and Klaus von Stosch under the term “comparative theology”. This approach emphasizes the preservation of religious identity while engaging in learning from the theology of other religions to strengthen, deepen, reconstruct, and reinterpret the beliefs. Functional dialogue, on the other hand, aims at interaction to address common problems and challenges such as environmental issues, peacemaking, and the like. It should be emphasized that mutual respect, mutual understanding, and empathy are conditions for interreligious dialogue that require education and cultural development.



Translator: Mahdi Qasemi