by Rev. Djalòki(*)
The Concept of Interfaith
In the process of brainstorming on a definition of the concept of Interfaith, members of A World Alliance of Interfaith Clergy (http://www.worldinterfaithclergy.org) and of the New Seminary (http://www.newseminary.org) came up with this temporary definition (communicated by Rev. Norman Wolfe):
Interfaith is a spiritual path to the Divine through seeing and understanding the deeper commonality of all spiritual paths and appreciating the unique contribution each has made. It is through this that we hope to transcend any specific form and gain a direct and rich experience of the Divine that we can bring into our daily living.
I believe this definition gives a good idea of the concept of Interfaith. In the course of the brainstorming however, the short version above evolved to the formulation below, and is still in progress in order to respect and incorporate as many different perspectives and sensibilities as possible:
Interfaith recognizes that the Divine expresses itself through all that inhabits this planet and is experienced in the diversity of their rituals, liturgy and practices. Interfaith is a spiritual path to the Divine of seeing, understanding and experiencing the deeper commonality of all spiritual paths and appreciating the unique contributions each makes to spiritual development. It is by drawing from the richness of rituals and practices of many faiths that we strive to transcend any specific path and gain a rich and direct experience of the Divine, which we can then bring into our daily living.
Three Major Approaches of Interfaith
Interfaith activities, statements or opinions are usually based on one or a combination of the three following approaches (it should be noted that this description is just an attempt of the author to modelize and present the Interfaith approach; it has not been widely shared so far and, as such, has not yet been the object of a wide consensus):
1- Inclusivism: religious tolerance and outreach rooted in a specific religion
This is the approach of the adepts of a specific religion who recognize the validity and truth of other religions for other people. Inclusivist (or Interfaith) groups and movements have been in existence in most of the religions of the world since their inception. It has often traditionally been promoted by the mystics of these religions, and now by more and more religious leaders of all faiths. Many people consider this approach as a prerequisite for world peace.
2- Pluralism: interstitial space and interface between different religions
This approach recognizes the riches and the uniqueness of every religion and spiritual path. It considers them as various pointers to a common objective, which is the union between the human and the Divine. It does not favor any particular religion over the others and focuses on the common ground between them as a foundation to access their potential of complementarity. Some people see it as an extension of the interdenominational and oecumenical approaches; others see it as a postmodernist approach of spirituality.
3- Spirituality beyond religious formal structures
In this approach, the spiritual quest seeks to transcend the socio-cultural, political, historical and organizational aspects of religions. In a sense, it focuses more on the “inter” than on the “faith” of Interfaith. The term Interspirituality is also used for this approach. It usually embraces a holistic body-mind-spirit-universe model and draws from various forms of teaching: religious, mystic, scientific (theoretical and empirical), philosophical, etc. Integral spirituality, which is the Integral Approach (developed by Ken Wilber) applied to spirituality, is an example of this approach of Interfaith.
There are many Interfaith organizations, seminaries and churches in the world today. Many of them are accessible on the Internet (I suggest you search the Web for Interfaith Organization, Interfaith Seminary, Interfaith Church and Interfaith Temple).
The Interfaith Minister
Although the Interfaith approach is not a religion, it is a legally recognized religious denomination in some countries, including the U.S.A. As a result, Interfaith seminaries, temples and churches that are legally registered in the U.S.A. as ordaining organizations can ordain ministers who are entitled to the same legal privileges and responsibilities as ministers of established and recognized religions in that country. Basically, they can legally perform baptisms, weddings and funerals, offer spiritual counseling and perform the usual tasks attributed to ministers in congregations and organizations, including worship services and various rituals as well as chaplaincy. As other ministers in the U.S.A., Interfaith ministers bear the title of Reverend.
Anyone can become an Interfaith minister, with no discrimination based on gender, race, socio-economic status, sexual orientation or religion.
The activities of many Interfaith ministers can be described through the lenses of the three approaches of Interfaith mentioned earlier.
1- “Religious” Interfaith ministers operate from the perspective of a specific religion. Some of them are ordained in their own religion and congregation as well. They promote religious tolerance and inclusivism in their communities.
2- “Pluralist” Interfaith ministers typically serve multicultural-multireligious communities, allowing people of different religions to live and practice their faith, not only side by side, but together in dynamic and interactive ways. There is a growing interest in hiring Interfaith ministers as chaplains in hospitals, nursing homes, the army and in humanitarian actions after large scale disasters involving people of different backgrounds.
3- “Interfaith Ministers of the Third Kind” (in lack of a better terminology) serve as facilitators, mentors and companions for people and groups who, while nurturing a deep reverence for the religions of the world, want to go beyond the conventions of religion in quest of global holistic encompassing paradigms and consciousness.
Interfaith ministers often combine various aspects of these three models in their activities.
In addition to their traditional role as ministers to individuals and communities, I also believe that Interfaith Ministers have the potential to become global spiritual leaders for humanity as a whole, along with others acting as facilitators and/or leaders in global healing, spiritual growth and the conscious evolution of our species.
(*) Reverend Djalòki, also known as Jean Luc Dessables, is an ordained Interfaith minister affiliated to the Interfaith Temple of the New Seminary (www.newseminary.org). His practice includes Paradigm Expansion Coaching (combining elements of Life Coaching, Spiritual Counseling, Shamanic/Vodou teachings and Interactive Guided Imagery), cross-cultural consulting, and international lectures and workshops on the connections between religions (Eastern and Western), Shamanism (including 21st Century Vodou) and advanced science (of consciousness and of matter).
Djalòki is also co-founder of the “N a Sonje” Foundation (http://nasonje.blogspot.com), which aims at healing the historical wounds between the peoples of Africa, Europe and the Americas. He is an associate member of DOA/BN (www.haititravels.org, transformational cultural tourism in Ayiti), and an Interactive Imagery Guide.
His intention is to help create a sustainable multicultural global society showing reverence for the diversity of life and valuing inclusive excellence among people and institutions. He believes that the time has come for the global shift of human consciousness, prophesied by many ancient people, that may mark a major leap of evolution for humanity.
Djalòki is a citizen of the world and of Ayiti (Kreyòl name of Haiti); he lives in Port-au-Prince, Ayiti. He speaks French, Ayitian Kreyòl, English and Spanish.
Read some of Djalòki’s texts on https://djaloki.wordpress.com