There seems to be a darkness at the heart of interfaith relations. It is not clear whether the darkness is a response to geopolitical factors – not only the significance of oil for the global economy but also the outworking of post-colonial politics in the post-imperial nation states – or a result of the growing influence of conservative interpretations of faith traditions. Or whether one is a cause of the other. It is difficult, if not impossible, to disentangle the political from the religious but, against a background of resurgent authoritarianism around the world, one question becomes more and more urgent: how can the Abrahamic faiths come together to make the world a better place? Or is the limiting of conflict the best that we can hope for?
It seems as if the early years of the twenty first century have continued and exacerbated one of the overarching narratives of the twentieth century: increase in inter-religious strife, particularly between the Abrahamic faiths, and decrease in trust and cooperation. There are many examples from which to choose. Trump’s proscribing of travel from nine Muslim countries. Boko Haram (meaning ‘Western Education is a Sin’ in Hausa) destabilising an already fragile truce in northern Nigeria. Pressure on ancient Christian communities in Palestine/Israel and Syria to the point where they are unlikely to survive. 9/11, 7/7 and the Charlie Hebdo murders. The marginalisation of Christian minorities in Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia.