Civil society is not indifferent to interreligious dialogue. Just as there is dialogue between believers from different religions, there needs to be a dialogue between believers and secular society. It is an expression of the dialogue between faith and reason. Within religions, it is the theological undertaking whereby faith informs reason and reason purifies faith. Within countries, it is the social project whereby religion and state, respecting each other’s proper sphere of autonomy, cooperate for the betterment of society as a whole.
Governments at local, state, national and international levels are sometimes ideally situated to provide “neutral” venues where believers from different religions can come together, get to know one another, break down prejudices and stereotypes and learn to cooperate with each other. In these ways, governments assist and encourage good civil behaviour between believers where all are subject to the one law of the state in a secular, multi-religious and multi-ethnic society.
Governments too benefit from the collective wisdom and the spiritual and moral values that religions provide. The authentic teachings of all religions promote harmony, peace, justice and service of the common good. These are enhanced when believers do it collectively with each other and with members of secular society, each contributing their particular insights, skills and energies.
Hence governments and religious leaders are allies and partners in dialogue for the mutual benefit of each other and for the betterment of society.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines the right to freedom of religion:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
For the full declaration see the UN Website: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) strives to build networks among nations that enable intellectual and moral solidarity as the only sure foundation for lasting peace.
Culture of Peace and Non-Violence
The culture of peace and non-violence is a commitment to peace-building, mediation, conflict prevention and resolution, peace education, education for non-violence, tolerance, acceptance, mutual respect, intercultural and interfaith dialogue and reconciliation.
See Website: http://en.unesco.org/cultureofpeace/
Learning to Live Together
The promotion of women’s rights and the empowerment of women and girls makes a very significant impact on peace-building, development and ecological issues as women lead the world in these areas. They are also at the forefront of intercultural and interreligious dialogue.
“Face to Face and Side by Side: A Framework for Partnership in our Multi-Faith Society”, Department for Communities and Local Government, UK
This document sets out how faith communities, Government and wider society can work together, at all levels, to encourage and enable greater local activity which brings people with different religions and beliefs together. The framework draws on research and on the responses to a three-month public consultation and contains examples of effective practice, practical suggestions for communities and local authorities and links to further sources of support and guidance.
To see the website of the National Archives click here: Face to Face and Side by Side
To download the PDF click here: “Face to Face and Side by Side“
APRO is a peak-of-peak body that was established in 2003. It is unique in that it comprises representatives of major faith bodies as well as national-level multicultural community organisations. APRO is a practical example of how successfully faith and ethnic communities can work collaboratively in Australia.
Multicultural NSW promotes community harmony and social cohesion. It advises government, engages communities, funds community-related projects, provides translation services and celebrates multicultural achievements. Research and reports assist in developing community harmony, including integration of religious communities. For example, My Religion, Our Country shows the compatibility between Islamic Law and Australian Law, while Serving in a New Land provides orientation to Australian society for religious workers who come from overseas.