Moral conflict and hate speech often are the result of information deficits, confirmation bias, and an unwillingness to venture outside of the confines of one’s own religious and cultural context.
Interfaith relations can directly confront each of these challenges. But how?
The most consistent feature of Interfaith interaction is dialogue, which is indispensable but which, in and of itself, is often insufficient or too infrequent to break through the barriers of prejudice and preconception.
Two examples of best practices to confront moral conflict and hate speech point the way to the answer.
The first interfaith action to take is graphic facilitation.
In a 2005 article in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Sciences, Carlotta Tyler, Lynne Valek, and Regina Rowland described how “graphic facilitators” at an interfaith event sponsored by the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions enhanced participant engagement and sustainability.
They accomplished this by producing and posting graphic records of the progress of dialogue sessions, translating verbal and nonvisual communications into graphic expressions of impression and progress.
What they found was that avoiding sole reliance on the spoken word — or at least shifting one’s perspective on it — provides an opportunity for shared, simultaneous, and visual inputs to enhance understanding and retention.
A second best practice in interfaith action is cultivating “meaningful contact,” either through travel or through embodied activity.
One example of travel is Christian-Jewish interfaith trips to Palestine and Israel. A group journey to sites of importance to one or more of the participating religions can provide an experiential immediacy and historical context. These enhancements can deepen interfaith understanding through direct experience.
Embodied activity, like sport, can build memories around a “contact space” in which groups can gently probe conflict and establish shared interests (see Lucy Mayblin, Gill Valentine, and Johan Andersson’s project in The Geographical Journal). Moral conflict and hate speech are less apt to thrive if a shared experience, and/or a graphic record of that experience, can be created.
As Interfaith students, teachers, and practitioners, breaking through information deficits, preconceptions, biases, and comfort zones may be endless tasks, but they are the best ways to defuse moral conflict and discourage hate speech.