PARIS (Reuters) – A rabbi, an imam and a priest sat down to discuss the most sensitive parts of their sacred scriptures, the verses that offend or anger other faiths.
But instead of the Catholic criticising Koran quotes or the Jew complaining about a Gospel, each took objectionable passages from his own holy book and tried to explain them to the others.
“Les Versets douloureux” (The Painful Verses), the result of their work, is an unusual book that aims to move interfaith dialogue beyond polite meetings to discuss issues that create tensions among Christians, Muslims and Jews.
Rabbi David Meyer, the driving force behind the project, said his frustration with routine interfaith meetings that avoided tough issues prompted him to seek a different kind of dialogue with Sohaib Bencheikh and Rev. Yves Simoens S.J.
“For a real dialogue, we have to have the courage to confront difficult things,” the rabbi of the International Jewish Center in Brussels said at a presentation of the French-language book in Paris on Thursday.
The book marked a new approach in interfaith dialogue. While religious leaders have been meeting for decades, an upswing in contacts in recent years reflects a feeling they need to work even more closely to foster better understanding.
Bensheikh, head of the Higher Institute of Islamic Sciences in Marseille, stressed the book was “not a dialogue between institutions. It’s the work of three believers, that’s all.”