The RSIS Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies (SRP) Programme jointly organised the 2nd Inter-religious Dialogue Skills Workshop with its partner organisations — the Buddhist College of Singapore (BCS), Catholic Theological Institute Singapore (CTIS), the Hindu Centre, MUIS Academy, the Taoist College (Singapore), and Trinity Theological College (TTC). The workshop, held on 23 October 2021, was titled “Religion and the Common Good” and had 50 representatives from the six partner organisations participating.
The workshop introduced participants to Scriptural Reasoning (SR) as an approach to interfaith dialogue. Participants used the approach to explore the sacred texts of the various religions in Singapore under the theme of “Common Good”.
The session began with presentations by experts and practitioners on these texts. They included extracts from the Bodhisattvacaryavatara, the Books of Genesis and Exodus from the Old Testament, the Maha Upanishad, the Sahih of Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, and the Tao Te Ching. The participants then engaged in deep discussion with one another across faiths, arriving at various possible interpretations from different perspectives. After the open and candid group discussions, SRP’s Assoc Prof Paul Hedges guided the participants through the origins, aims and principles of the SR approach.
Both speakers and participants expressed the view that the SR approach allowed for safe and meaningful interfaith dialogue because, first, it departed from the usual conversations on scriptural interpretation, which involved only members of the same faith. With SR, “guests” are allowed to respectfully join in. Second, there was no pressure to look for similarities, which tended to be the “lowest common denominator” of teachings across faiths. Instead, participants maintained their theological and doctrinal stances to provide different perspectives on and towards the “Common Good”.
At the end of the session, the participants were unanimous in assessing that the workshop had been relevant and useful to their work. Many looked forward to participating in another session under a different theme.