Experiential Encounters: New Models of Interfaith Dialogue
This is a qualitative research study that explores new models of interfaith dialogue (IFD) characterized as dialogue-by-experience that remain understudied and that may provide opportunities for religious minorities, youth, women, and religious leaders from a variety of persuasions that traditional IFD models do not. The goal of this study is to examine several research gaps in the field of conflict resolution regarding dialogue-by-experience encounters: individual paths to participation, participant motivations, the effects of encounters on individuals, and the role of religion, more specifically the nature of participation by Muslim religious and community leaders. Three dialogue-by-experience encounters serve as the foundation of this research: The Fez Sacred Music Festival, the “On the Way to the Sulha” encounter, and the Big Hug on Jerusalem. Data was gathered through in-depth interviews with three target populations: IFD scholar-practitioners who have served as observers, participants, and facilitators of dialogue-by-experience encounters; dialogue-by-experience organizers/leaders; and encounter participants. In-depth interviews were audio recorded, transcribed, coded, and analyzed. Deeper findings highlight several unique elements of dialogue-by-experience IFD encounters that provide opportunities traditional IFD encounters do not. The use of universal mediums like ritual, symbol, and gesture through the inclusion of music and joint prayers provide an opportunity for people to make meaning of the encounter through means other than words. As a result, this multi-faceted methodology attracts a diverse pool of participants. These participants form new relationships and networks during the encounter that have immense potential to mobilize later for positive social action. However, obstacles including apolitical frameworks are currently holding dialogue-by-experience IFD encounters back from their full potential to positively impact social change positively.
Dialogue, Middle East, Islam, Interfaith, Peacebuilding, Social networks