Lohre of Harvard is convinced that informal interfaith efforts like that of the Three Amigos will continue to grow. If such efforts had been merely a reaction to September 11, they would have faded long ago. But because so many people are now involved in interfaith friendships and because so many interfaith activities have involved young people, interfaith work is not likely to vanish -- and the relationships can only deepen. The most successful groups, Lohre says, provide acts of service and hospitality as well as activities for people of different generations.

Not everyone is prepared to applaud such encounters. Anxiety about the loss of "shared values" is heard from many corners, leading some people to turn inward. And interfaith conversations are clearly in their early stages -- they have not yet been a force in stopping wars, nor have they succeeded in shutting the doors of Guantanamo or in healing the wounds in the Middle East. But thousands of people have had concrete encounters with neighbors who belong to a different religious faith.

One often hears quoted in interfaith circles these words of God from the Qur'an: "O humankind, we have created you out of a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you might come to know one another." At this point in history, coming to know one another remains a critical task.

 

The article originally appeared in the The Christian Century magazine, www.christiancentury.org, copyright © 2008 and reprinted with permission.

Amy Frykholm is a staff writer for The Christian Century and a contributor to its blog (Theolog).  She is the author of Rapture Culture: Left Behind in Evangelical America and speaks regularly on topics ranging from American apocalypticism to mysticism to immigration.