1. I believe that my religion is the truth. Isn’t listening to another faith courting unfaithfulness to my own? I have a duty to proclaim the truth, but why should I really listen to another tradition?

  • because we treat others the way we hope they will treat us. We hope they will listen with respect and vulnerability—an open heart.
  • because we are finite human creatures. To think our understanding is perfect is both proud and idolatrous. Research Fellow John Fairfield made this point in a 4-minute announcement at Lake Junaluska:

2. Why build a Mennonite Center for Interfaith Engagement (CIE)? There are many such centers underway elsewhere; what do Mennonite Christians have to add to the discourse? What would be distinctive about interfaith engagement at Eastern Mennonite University?

  • CIE will build on the power of collaborative interfaith relationships that have become a part of the Mennonite experience. Through involvement with relief and development efforts via Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), and service-oriented mission activities, Mennonites have a lot of experience on the ground working with partners of different faiths to solve real problems. These experiences have built many personal relationships which have had profound effects on the spiritual journeys of all parties. We have a capital of trust extended from traditional cultures which have found us more approachable than threatening western culture. We have networks of relationships into places not accessible to many in the west.
  • CIE will build on the work at EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP). The human condition is that relationships are broken and we suffer the resulting violence and war. CJP has become a global resource for the study and praxis of peacebuilding. CJP has built a multi-faith network of relationships with people involved with the most intractable interfaith conflicts on the globe.

3. How is this different from what Mennonites have been doing already?

  • Through MCC, MDS and the like, Mennonites have had a hands on, bottom up, relationship-building approach. We need to make our working assumptions more explicit. We need to bring the insights we have gleaned on the ground into an academic forum. We need to develop knowledge and understanding of the power of interfaith relationships to effect change. We need to develop a theology of interfaith relations.
  • Though CJP is also moving towards models of sustainable productive tension, it still has a focus on conflict resolution. CIE focuses on the religious value of hospitable interfaith struggle, to build peace, to make a better understanding of life and to grow a more profound faith.

4. How will this work proceed?

  • By translating our natural, accustomed respect for others into conscious awareness.
  • By bringing conservative voices from each faith community into collaboration. Conservative faith communities have traditionally related to each other competitively. CIE has a vision for how conservative communities of all stripes can justify collaboration.

5. Who are the Mennonites?