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A Response to:
ISKCON in Relation to People of Faith in God
by Saunaka Rsi Dasa, Vol. 7, No. 1
 
Original Article - ISKCON in Relation to People of Faith in God

Hans Ucko

While representatives of all world religions participate in interreligious dialogue, there do seem to be more Christian statements about the value of dialogue than there are Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim or Jewish pronouncements. Perhaps Christians, more than others, need to espouse dialogue as a way of relating to people of other faiths. Be that as it may, there is a need to also assess within other religious traditions the value of interfaith dialogue as the preferred way of relating to people of other faiths in our world today. It is therefore with a sense of curiosity that I discovered that the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) has recently developed a document that addresses the question of relations to people of other faiths.

The document is prefaced with a request to ISKCON members to 'accept a more global responsibility'. This document will help not only ISKCON members, it will also help those outside ISKCON to relinquish prejudices and stereotypes about the Hare Krishna movement. It is a document that recognises and respects other theistic traditions and that clearly states that 'no one religion holds a monopoly on the truth, the revelation of God or our relationship with God'. It calls upon its followers to reconsider their life in mission, stating that it is 'inappropriate and unbecoming ... to try and attract people to the worship of the Supreme by denigrating, misrepresenting or humiliating members of other faith communities.' ISKCON does not have a mission to proselytise members of other faiths. In an age of dialogue, one often comes across a tendency to harmonise all religions, disregarding actual differences between our religious traditions. There is always, in every multi-faith gathering, someone looking for every possibility to affirm that we are all the same, all mean the same, all say the same, that we are all on the same path leading to Rome. This may sound like a pleasant way of providing space for everyone, but actually reflects a fear of religious diversity.

By streamlining our religious differences, we may arrive at a super‑religion of universal love, global friendliness and cosmic consciousness modelled for the 21st century, but it will be a religion similar to a blend of ice cream and jelly: easy to swallow, but of no substance. In this document, I read that 'diversity is accepted, that religions do not have to become homogenous or merge together, but develop respectful and practical relationships with one another'.

I am inspired by this document. It is a challenge to many in my own constituency. I wish followers of ISKCON many opportunities to walk with this document as a vade mecum in a world of religious plurality, respecting the other as other in his or her God-given dignity.

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