No front page content has been created yet.
A letter from the President of FRD:
Welcome to the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy (FRD) where honest conversations build trust and friendship between people that disagree in their worldviews. Through mutual exchanges here people can become more effective at expressing our different beliefs in a safe and open atmosphere.
There is much to enjoy on this site. I suggest visiting the Principles section of this site first. Especially note the FRD Pledge and The Way of Openness Guidelines that we all follow here. Next visit the Chapters section to learn about the activities of FRD members that share your religious or philosophical tradition.
Whatever your background, this site will address your desires for inspiration, growth, affirmation and exploration. We hope you will become a part of FRD and your affiliated Chapter. You will be joining a movement to immensely improve the way we engage over our inevitable disagreements over values and truth.
Again, welcome to FRD.
Charles Randall Paul
The Mission Statement: The Foundation for Religious Diplomacy exists to build trust between religious rivals who share good will without compromising their spiritual or ideological integrity.
The Problem: Among diverse religious believers and practitioners, as well as skeptics, there is no universally acceptable authority to resolve religious conflicts about ultimate reality, the purpose of life, and the correct way to live. Integrity requires that we sincerely advocate our own tradition as superior; but this unavoidably calls into question the beliefs of other traditions or ideologies. Historically, such conflicts eventually lead to contempt, resentment, legal discrimination, and outright violence. The positive energy that our religions can produce is thus turned to a destructive force in families, communities, and nations where religious differences exist.
The Vision: It has been said that peace is not attained by avoiding tension, but by continually striving for a worthy purpose. We envision a day when most people will strive to improve the world by sharing their deepest convictions through words and deeds of respectful persuasion not threats of coercion or harm. We envision an increase of trust between ethical advocates of conflicting worldviews that learn to live together in peaceful tension – contesting their differences in good faith, and collaborating often in humanitarian projects.
The Goal of the Foundation: The goal is to model and train religious rivals to live in “peaceful tension” together as they live their religions with full integrity while seeking ways for healthy social collaboration. To this end the Foundation provides programs for persons of faith, or any convictions, to honorably engage others of different beliefs in trust-building relationships, conversations, and activities. The Foundation’s purpose is distinctly not ecumenical, nor is it interfaith. Instead, it practices religious diplomacy by building trust by honestly facing irresolvable religious or ideological differences in a respectful manner. The Foundation provides means to replace suspicion and ill will with trust and friendship when people with irreconcilably different beliefs see the wisdom and good will in each other even while disagreeing about ultimate truth.
Why Does FRD Do What It Does?
People of wisdom and good will still often disagree about religion or their highest purpose and way of life. Too often we dismiss as ignorant or stubborn those we disagree with. Such disdain causes resentment, which breeds a readiness for violent conflict triggered by even only slight provocation. Without a respectful way of advocating truth without dismissing the wisdom and good will of others, our diverse world is bound for even more violent conflict.
In an effort to build respect, good will, and trust between people in religious or ideological disagreements, the foundation facilitates heart-to-heart diplomatic encounters between religious advocates who would not normally meet to engage their differences. The central method for effective religious diplomacy is taking the opportunity to speak forthrightly the truth one holds dear and listening carefully to different points of view.
The foundation provides several ways to bring together people and assist them in experiencing deep religious communication that can improve their interreligious relations without compromising their integrity or even encouraging agreement between them. The core insight is this: religious conflicts can be sustained respectfully through methods of forthright engagement. Attempts to resolve fundamental religious identity conflicts into harmonious unity can actually increase resentment and ill will.
The foundation contacts potential religious diplomats who are respected within their traditional religious groups to explore the benefits of directly encountering those who are in conflict with their group's beliefs and practices. This step requires potential interreligious diplomats to assess how improved interreligious relations would lead to attaining their group’s greater goals. Candidly asked, their question is whether their group, which has the truth, will benefit from building respect and mitigating ill will with others who hold erroneous religious beliefs? When the decision is to engage the other, the foundation assists in arranging private, respectful encounters within or between families, local religious communities, or worldwide organizations.
When these meetings happen, they usually begin with people sharing personal testimonies of how they came to hold their deepest beliefs. This step creates an atmosphere of forthright interpersonal trust that encourages people to communicate about more difficult subjects. Without taking offense at the testimony and critiques of others, they can go deeply into their contested beliefs and practices and about any prior mistreatment each group has inflicted upon the other. The final step is to assist interreligious diplomats to decide how best to expand the benefits of their improved relations. The foundation may be a continual resource for more interreligious communication, but once trusting relations begin, people can choose to engage anytime without outside facilitation.
The Foundation’s Programs: The Foundation has adopted a number of strategies for achieving its goal. These include the following:
1) Chapters: The Foundation incorporates chapters in a variety of religious and secular traditions. These are essentially independently organized chapters which informally represent their communities and constituencies. They function under the leadership of custodians who pursue the best strategies designed for their communities through both intra- as well as inter-religious activities.
2) Religious Diplomats: The Foundation seeks to find and train persons who are religiously bilingual, that is, not only intimately familiar with their own religion, but also highly conversant with the beliefs and practices of at least one other religion. They will become useful independent agents for their own communities when tensions or opportunities for social cooperation arise. Anyone that desires to sit down with a religious rival or opponents in honest conversation can develop the skill and improve their lives.
3) Heart and Mind Conferences: These are conferences that bring together spokespersons for different faiths in a seminar type setting, where the opportunity exists to present papers and to discuss openly varying religious or skeptical points of view. Conferences like this have taken place at the University of Southern California in 2010 with representatives of Mormons and other Abrahamic religious traditions. Another conference took place in 2012 at the Wesley Theological Seminary in Virginia between Mormon and Methodist scholars.
4) The World Table: The Foundation is designing an Internet platform called The World Table© which is a type of social network bringing together trustworthy rivals to engage in a structured setting in the exchange of religious or ideological views. Such a network will provide a real time as well as asynchronous forum for honest for honest and forthright encounters according to a set of mutually acceptable rules of engagement.
This section describes the various theoretical and pragmatic principles that empower the mission of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy.
How To Do Religious Diplomacy: Peaceful co-resistance and Trustworthy Witnesses
Peaceful co-existence between people with conflicting beliefs about the purpose of life and right way to live is impractical when they live at close quarters and interact with each other. As we interact with those who disagree with us about our worldviews, peaceful co-resistance is a more realistic goal. In order to live together trustfully even with deep differences we are wise to develop a useful diplomatic skill and attitude. The skill is listening respectfully to the heart and mind of another. The attitude is provisional trust of another’s good will. Together, this means hearing another’s challenging testimony of a superior truth with appreciation for his or her wisdom and good will without taking offense.
Interreligious diplomacy is based on the desire to communicate with another about differences in beliefs and practices having to do with the most important matters of ultimate truth — even those that are strongly contested. Diplomacy is witness-to-witness communication that aims to listen and learn, speak and persuade at the same time. No diplomatic persuasion occurs unless the persuader sincerely listens as well as he or she proclaims. To be a witness in good faith requires both listening carefully and speaking clearly. Trustworthiness — the power of the witness — comes from speaking the truth transparently. Trust develops over time, after people encounter each other in mutually respectful communications.
Interreligious diplomacy can bring people who are in conflict over their worldviews or practices to respectfully communicate their differences transparently. Disrespectful enemies can change to become trustworthy opponents and, if they desire, cooperative friends at the same time. Sustaining peaceful co-resistance or peaceful tension is a realistic and worthy goal for interreligious diplomacy.
Legitimate and Healthy Conflicts over Ultimate Truth
Question: How can the inevitable conflicts over ultimate truth be engaged in healthy ways that mitigate ill will and build trust between people in conflict?
Answer: Through legitimate interreligious diplomacy that welcomes respectful contestation of truth without taking offense.
For religious diplomacy to succeed, it must become a legitimate orthodox activity. Thus, both the rank and file as well as leaders of religious and ideological communities must see how it fits within their tradition and approve participating in it. The Foundation for Religious Diplomacy aims to muster the support for interreligious communication between traditional religious groups that do not normally engage in interreligious dialogue by providing a platform for proclamation of their messages in comparative encounters with others. The call to proclaim the truth is a powerful motive in the world.
As we are so interconnected in today's pluralistic world, a call to spread the truth can be most clearly answered by speaking openly with others who feel the same call to respectfully proclaim different views of the truth. The future of possible peace is in missionary-to-missionary dialogue, or heart-to-heart contestation that replaces the desire for hand-to-hand combat.
The Future of Peace: Sustaining Contestations of Truth
The Foundation is organized to provide the preliminary network for a system of legitimate interreligious communication that will be commonly used for respectful cooperative and contestational interaction in families, communities, and societies that are strained by conflicting worldviews. Face to face dialogue — including respectful contestation of differences — will be one of the main methods of legitimate engagement. By the end of the 21st century, we envision that people will broadly have learned the skill and attitude needed for respectful dialogue.
When religious diplomacy becomes a legitimate religious and social institution, people will have learned useful methods for engaging their inevitable religious and ideological differences that cannot be resolved simply through educational clarification. By more transparently engaging our religious and ideological differences, we will decrease ill will and mitigate acts of coercion and violence done in the name of religion or ideology. To this end, the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy has begun its work of showing how disrespectful ideological enemies can at least become trustworthy opponents through a conventional diplomatic process of mutual learning and persuasion called contestational dialogue.
Given the freedom of human beings in relation to each other, there can be no sure outcome for any program including person-to-person dialogue. People are free to betray trust, take offense, and act in anger. However, if respectful, peaceful tension can begin to replace disdainful, rancorous, contention, aren't the benefits to families, communities, and societies worthy of the effort? Will not the religions involved embrace a higher way of demonstrating their highest way? This is rreligious diplomacy.
Practical Methods for Interreligious Diplomacy
1. To influence a change in the minds and hearts of others, they must trust that you care about them, and that they can also have an influence on you. Thus careful listening in balanced and open-minded conversation is crucial. The diplomat persuades transparently without manipulation.
2. Developing bi-lingual, bi-cultural, bi-religious knowledge is powerful preparation for diplomacy. It shows deep respect for people of another culture or religion, and it provides religiously bi-lingual diplomats deeper knowledge of their own beliefs through serious comparison with those of others.
3. Unless communication is respectful, no beneficial diplomacy occurs. People who pretend to respect others they actually disrespect or disdain will harm interreligious relations. Therefore, without necessarily approving the other’s truth claims or practices, interreligious diplomats with integrity must in good faith at least commence communications by respectfully assuming the other to be a wise, knowledgeable, good-hearted person.
4. Critical as well as appreciative communication is a sign of serious respect for another's life, beliefs, and practices. Trust between people builds from sincerely sharing their experiences and beliefs — those that disclose our human imperfections as well as our most noble hopes. Trustworthy diplomats will try to engage in full and transparent communication including disagreements over the other's life, beliefs, and practices, thus full and transparent communication includes contestation.
Trust in the integrity of the other—not being unified in beliefs—is the vital heart of healthy families, communities, and societies. The Foundation for Religious Diplomacy organizes respectful encounters between people in conflicts over their religious or ideological differences to allow them to build trustworthy relations, not to resolve their deep differences. Participants engage in candid dialogue, sharing their beliefs and values and contesting their serious differences. While listening openly to each other, dialogue partners can sense the wisdom, discipline, and good will in the other, making it possible to hear and give critical appraisals of their differences without taking offense. Facing their irresolvable religious differences without disdaining or misrepresenting the other builds trust in their mutual integrity.
Advocating the divine truth as one sees it and hearing another sincerely advocate a conflicting worldview is a bracing experience. A diverse society that avoids the contestation of differences will not flourish because its members feel they do not care enough about each other to express their hearts and minds freely about what matters most to them. Interreligious diplomacy, respectfully engaged, is a continual heart-to-heart contest that sustains peaceful tension. Societies, religious and ideological groups, and families that find no respectable way of integrity to fight fairly over the ultimate truth will not have the strength to sustain their solidarity when economic, political, or natural pressures strain them to the limit. Beyond passive tolerance of the other is engaged caring—differences that matter are met head on through forthright contests of persuasion. This is the secret to living together even in full acceptance of the fact that parties have clear and different views of ultimate truth and practices about how we as human beings ought to live.