The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is observed annually in the latter part of January as a time for those in the various denominations and sub-groups of Christianity to affirm what it is that joins them together in spite of their differences of worship, theology, history or culture. In a sense, it is a microcosm of the search for mutual respect and pluralism that marks interfaith relationships.
Sometimes it is even harder to get along with those who are closer to us. In some ways it is easier to extend respect and openness to traditions that differ greatly from our own. It is “within the family,” as it were, that some of the most bitter conflicts arise. When we are more alike to each other than not, somehow our differences come to the foreground and our discussions become more heated.
In interfaith circles, we have often asked “what is it that we are learning in our interfaith relationships that could change the way we relate to those of our own tradition?” There are no clear answers, but certainly those qualities of openness, the ability to tolerate ambiguity and an appreciation for difference can serve us well in our own communities.