Monday, May 7, 2012

Interfaith Dialogue

Talking with others about my faith is something I do a lot.  Talking with men who are incarcerated about faith is something I’m learning to do. 

At one of prisons for men I visit, I was one of several religious leaders who participated in an 8-week session called “Interfaith Dialogue.”  As we went around the circle each person had a chance to talk about his or her spiritual tradition – and it was fascinating.  Prisons are not places where you’d expect to find spirituality.  Yet, one of the things I learned is the importance of spirituality to the men.  It gives them hope, and for many of them it offers a form of independent study, prayer and meditation.

We represented several Christian denominations: Catholic, UCC, Baptist. Others in the circle were Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Native American.  Several also practiced various kinds of Paganism.  These were the least familiar to me, and among those from whom I learned so much, including the fact that they were lifelong believers and very knowledgeable about their spiritual path.

Finding a safe place for conversations such as we had is not always easy.  Prisons, in particular, do not always offer places where inmates can be open enough to share what is most important to them.  What we were able to do was to create a safe place.  As each of us told our stories the others in the circle listened respectfully.

With whom can you share your faith?
Where can you find a conversation circle that offers a safe place for dialogue?

Ruth Poochigian, O.P.
Madison Wisconsin

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