21st Century COE Program Archive


Date: June 12, 2004
Location: Keisuikan, Shinmachi school buildings, Doshisha University
Title: Issues Facing Monotheistic Religions in the United States
Speaker: Barbara B. Zikmund (School of American Studies, Doshisha Univ.)
Title: Coexistence with non-Muslims in Islamic Thought
Speaker: Ko Nakata (School of Theology, Doshisha Univ.)
  Both of this meeting’s reports on research take an interest in dialogue between religions.
  Dr. Zikmund insists on the necessity of dialogue between religions. Today, in the USA, all religious groups cannot but associate with other religious groups. This is because there is unprecedented religious diversity. In this situation, groups in monotheistic faiths confront the difficulty that they must overcome the exclusivism of former days, the denial other religions because of their belief in one God, and show respect to other religions while maintaining their monotheistic faith. It is 'the biggest challenge that monotheism faces.' As a case study of this challenge, Dr. Zikmund referred to 'Marks of Faithfulness' (1999) submitted by the NCC (National Council of Churches), and described her experience of its formation, pointing out some of its problems. So, indeed, dialogue between religions is indispensable. And it is indispensable not only for the establishment of good relations between religious groups, but for the understanding of one’s own faith under pressure of reorganization due to the impact of religious diversity.
  On the other hand, Dr. Nakata has doubts about the recently promoted dialogue between religions. He thinks that differences between doctrines are overemphasized as a result of excessive dialogue between religions, so that collisions between religious groups occur. Especially, they occur when there is inequality of power between interlocutors. In this case, the issue of who represents a religious group and what the dialogue’s purpose is for the representative is controlled by motives of relative 'strength' and 'weakness,' so that dialogue cannot but end in non-constructive polemics at cross-purposes. Rather, what should be aimed at is legal stability and a system of coexistence which removes religion from dialogue. As a model of this legal stability, Dr. Nakata illustrated the model of the patronage contract (Zhimmah model) that Islam employed for coexistence with heathens. In Islam, 'mission' means spatial expansion under the rule of law instead of 'the call for conversion.' So the autonomy of each religion was approved within a personal domain unless it conflicted with public law. This distinction between public and personal is found in the bazaar as a classic city of Islam. In this city, the mosque as a personal domain and the bazaar as a public domain were distinguished, which maintained the balance of power so that the coexistence of each religion went smoothly.
  Responding to Dr. Zikmund’s report, Dr. Kohara asked how representatives of other religions participated in the formation of 'Marks of Faithfulness,' and what precisely is meant by the word 'dialogue.' Regarding the second report, Dr. Ishikawa asked how the Zhimmah model, which was characteristic of a comparatively stable historical period, could be relevant to the present time when religious diversity is remarkably widespread.
  From the questions of both commentators, it was concluded that dialogue as a compromise between fixed doctrines is little but barren discussion, while actually, dialogue to enable the understanding of faiths in real life is indispensable. In the discussion, the actual situation of dialogue between religions and, in particular, dialogue in the Japanese context became a topic of conversation.
Kiyoshi Uehara
(COE Promoted Researcher / Graduate Student of School of Theology, Doshisha University)