Why we need religious conflict

Oct 22, 2021 by

by Giles Fraser, UnHerd:

The murder of David Amess suggests difficult conversations must be had.

When Rod Liddle was the editor of the Today programme he had the bright idea of encouraging much more religiously conservative voices onto Thought for the Day. Perhaps even what we euphemistically call “radical” ones. What did the higher-ups at the BBC think of this? Tune into Radio 4 at ten to eight to hear… someone telling us that we might be going to hell for being gay?  Inevitably, the idea came to nothing.

But you can also see Liddle’s point. If “radicals” are excluded from the public conversation, how are they ever to be drawn into dialogue – that apparently magical crucible in which hate and suspicion is transformed into understanding. Yet isn’t that precisely the promise held out by interfaith encounter?

The murder of Sir David Amess, a committed Roman Catholic, apparently by an Islamic radical, once again raises the question of whether the interfaith encounter works.

For centuries human beings of different faith perspectives have met together to try and … well, try and what exactly? When Nachmanides met with Dominican and Franciscan theologians in 1263 for a formal disputation on the fundamentals of faith, the purpose seemed to be to persuade the “other side” that they were wrong. Accounts of the famous Disputation of Barcelona vary, but both sides did their polemical best to say why the other was mistaken. It was tense — of course it was. And the Christian account tells of Nachmanides fleeing from the scene.

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