WASHINGTON, D.C., NOV. 26, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Leaders and young people from Catholic, Muslim, Sikh and Hindu traditions gathered for a day-long conference at St. Paul’s College in Washington, D.C.in early November, to exchange experiences and ideas on the need for dialogue among religions in U.S. society. Generations of Faith 2012 was the second such event sponsored by the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Over 20 young people and seven religious leaders representing USCCB, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the World Sikh Council-America Region (WSC-AR), and The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) participated. The first “Generations of Faith” took place in 2010.
Father John Crossin, executive director of the USCCB’s Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, presented a session on the importance of listening. “This art of dialogue begins on the open canvas of mutual listening,” Father Crossin said. “Listening is the first and ever-present step in a process that, through God’s grace, will take us to recognize the obstacles that separate us, heal old wounds, grow in our understanding of the other, grow in our understanding of self, and create a sacred space in which the genuine bonds of friendship, solidarity, respect, and peace can flourish.”
Subsequent sessions dealt with the 25th Assisi World Day of Prayer for Peace (2010),sharing one’s faith with people of other traditions, and the need for young people to advocate for interreligious dialogue. Young adults and religious leaders also shared personal testimony regarding the important role dialogue has played for them.
Bishop Barry Knestout, auxiliary bishop of Washington and co-chair of the Mid-Atlantic Catholic-Muslim Dialogue, gave the keynote address on the theme “Dialogue of Life: Celebrating our Commonalities, Understanding our Differences.” Bishop Knestout said dialogue makes possible an understanding of differences that does not lead to strife and discord.
“We have high hopes for you – for you are the future hands and feet of God in the world,” Bishop Knestout said. “This task of interreligious dialogue, a task that requires your hands and feet, that is, your commitment to interreligious service and cooperation, as well as understanding and solidarity, is of immense importance at this point in history.”