Paolo Dall’Oglio



I will assume here that inter-religious dialogue is a part of inter-cultural dialogue, and that religion is an aspect of culture. Believers can conceive religion as super-cultural or extra cultural, but the psychosocial phenomena happen anyway in the cultural context.

The major misconceptions come from the uncritical and unconscious projection of one’s own conceptions onto others’ cultural worlds. This produces impressions and judgments perceived by the other as not correct, as unjust, or even as persecution, and which provoke reactions that can be violent.

For example, what is called “common sense” is very often uncommon; what is considered “evident” can be questionable for others, and what is considered “rational”, “objective”, “absolute”, and “essential” can be seen otherwise by others. Even the Declaration of Human Rights can be perceived as an imposed Western scheme of reference. Items like “person” or “individual” in his relation to the group can be seen in deeply different ways. Therefore, priorities in rights and values can also be seen very differently.

What empowers a concept to become “shared enough” to build a society?

It can be by force, (force can be globalization, technical and scientific superiority, dominance of one language, number, historical weight...) or by conviction, never completely free from “force influences” (the weight of belonging, the anguish of loneliness, the fear of exclusion...). Even democracy can be perceived as a system of force to be resisted.

So, what can we build inter-religious, common life on? And what does respect mean? Answering these questions is already the object and the fruit of dialogue. To believe in dialogue is already ideology or religionIt is bearing witness to one’s own values. You will not meet others if you are afraid to be yourself. Each one will bear witness to his own experience of truth, and meeting others is an essential part of that experience of truth.

In my opinion, misconceptions come from the pretension of understanding the other without the active participation of the other, whereas concepts come out of a dialogue process. Is this opinion shared in the context of inter-religious interaction in the Euro-Mediterranean cultural area? By looking at how people are behaving, it is not shared. Just ask the three Abrahamic traditions: What is the Holy Land? What does Jerusalem mean? What does prophecy mean? And violence? And law?...

However, you will probably find some people from the three traditions able and willing to understand each other in deep dialogue about their dynamic experience of conceptualization. Will they win elections? Or have they other means to attract the populations of the area to the fruit of their shared experience? Wouldn’t this be a good occasion for a jihad” of resistance to force?