The Need for Dialogue Between Religions
|Father Samir Khalil and Professor Maher
In a lecture sponsored in College Hall by the Anis Makdisi Program in
Literature on December 10, Father Samir Khalil, who holds a doctorate
in Islamic Studies from the Aix-en-Provence University in France, made
an impassioned call for a more active promotion of dialogue between religions
in order to bring about peace among countries.
Father Khalil began by saying there is no longer any need to ask whether
a dialogue between religions is needed, but rather that the dialogue has
become absolutely essential. And now, he insisted, is the time to ask
how this dialogue can be initiated.
Religion, he said, has permeated the normal individual's everyday life,
a fact that has given way to clashes between cultures and religions. Therefore,
if people from different religions wish to coexist, they should choose
a system of rule that respects all religions in order to unite them. He
warned that adopting a system of rule that adopts only one religion would
lead to extremism. The cause of the divide between religions, he said,
has several reasons, among them the fall of the Ottoman empire and the
formation of Israel.
Father Khalil observed that religion has become more of an ideology rather
than a commitment of faith. There is a need for people of different religions
to start viewing each other from the other's respective religion, saying
that in order to understand each other, we have to understand where the
other is coming from. This, unfortunately, has been very rare and difficult.
In fact, he added, there is a lot of ignorance about different religions
that only serves to increase the divide between them.
On an optimistic note, Father Khalil noted the instances in history when
religions, particularly Islam and Christianity, were able to overcome
their differences. The essential thing, he said, is for each religion
to acknowledge and accept the other. In Lebanon, he stated that the clash
between religions is rooted in sectarianism and the people's inability
to accept modernity, saying that modernism is present in Lebanon, but
people have failed to embrace it.
Father Khalil, who is a professor of Islamic Studies at the University
of Saint Joseph and the head of the International Association for Christian
Arabic Studies, has several publications dealing with Islam and Christianity.