Academic Programs 

Dialogue in a World of Difference   (MA-530)
Fall 2003

Students and faculty in a collegial setting will explore in depth the principles and the practice of dialogue in a pluralistic world through dialogical listening and cross-cultural conversations in a context of diversity.  Goals of the course include the development of listening and communication skills in multi-cultural contexts; fostering an understanding of one another through information sharing and community building action; and learning how to discuss potentially divisive issues constructively and without animosity.

Meeting Day, Time and Dates:
Mondays from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Ibrahim Abu-Rabi'
Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9500

Ian Markham
Professor of Theology and Ethics

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9500


Miriam Therese Winter
Professor of Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9509


Underlying Course Assumption

This is more than a course about dialogue. It is an invitation to engage in the practice of dialogue in a structured setting. Course outcomes focus on what is learned in the process.

Goals, Outcomes, Assessments and Expectations

The goals of this course are:

  • fostering an understanding of one another within the class through information sharing and community building action

  • providing opportunities for developing listening and communication skills in      multi-cultural contexts

  • offering a context for wrestling with the challenging questions and issues of our times and for discussing potentially divisive issues constructively and without animosity

The outcomes of this course are:

  • a sense of collegiality and community across religious, cultural, gender lines

  • a rudimentary understanding of cross-cultural and interfaith dialogue and the ability to participate meaningfully in multi-cultural conversations

  • an ability to integrate and apply one’s learnings to the task at hand


The methods of assessment and general expectations of this course are:


  • you are expected to read all the books and articles on the course reading list

  • you are expected to participate fully in class discussions and activities

Methods of Assessment: Assignments

  • write a reflective paper on your experience at the mosque
  • write a reflective paper about what you have learned about dialogue in this course
  • write a review of one of the books on the course reading list 
    the length of the reflection papers (2-4 pages each)
    *the length of the book review (3-5 pages)


The Grade for this course will be Pass or Fail.

The final deadline for all assignments is January 5, 2004. Please send papers to the Office of the Dean.

Course Reading List

Ariarajah, S. Wesley.  The Bible and People of Other Faiths. Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1985.

Blackburn, Steven. “The Call.” Unpublished sermon. Hartford Seminary Chapel: May 2003.

Caesar, Judith. Crossing Borders. An American Woman in the Middle East. Syracuse University Press, 1997.

Estes, Clarissa Pinkola. “The Lantern of Soul.” From “Letter to a Young Activist in Troubled Times.” EarthLight. vol. 12, no. 3 (Spring 2003), p. 6.  [class handout]

Forward, Martin. “What is Dialogue?” In Inter-Religious Dialogue. A Short Introduction.  Oxford: OneWorld, 2001 – pp. 7-37.

Gandhi, Mohandas. Essential Writings. Selected with an Introduction by John Dear.  Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2002.

Markham, Ian and Abu-Rabi’, Ibrahim, eds. 11 September. Religious Perspectives on the Causes and Consequences. Oxford: OneWorld, 2002.

  • Abu-Rabi’, Ibrahim. “A Post-September 11 Critical Assessment of Modern      Islamic History.” pp. 21-52

  • Agosto, Efrain. “Religious Leadership in the Aftermath of September 11: Some Lessons from Jesus and Paul.” pp. 164-188

  • Cobb, Kelton. “Violent Faith.” pp. 136-163.

  • Hadsell, Heidi. “Internal Security and Civil Liberties: Moral Dilemmas and      Debates.” pp. 248-264

  • Markham, Ian. “9.11: Contrasting Reactions and the Challenge of Dialogue.” pp. 206-228

  • Mattson, Ingrid. “Stopping Oppression: An Islamic Obligation.” pp. 101-110

  • Winter, Miriam Therese. “Witnessing to the Spirit: Reflections on an Emerging      American Spirituality.” pp. 111-135

Roy, Arundhati. War Talk. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2003.

Sontag, Susan. “Courage and Resistance.” The Nation (May 5, 2003), pp. 11-14.

Spangler, David. The Call. New York: Riverhead Books. 1996.

Wheatley, Margaret J. Turning to One Another. Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future. San Francisco: Berrett-Loehler Publishers, 2002.


Course Syllabus 

Part One Storytelling: Universal Paradigm
– personal, communal, cross-cultural – 

Session One September 15    Let Me Tell You Who I Am

  • sharing our personal stories
  • getting to know one another

Session Two  -  September 22   Let Me Tell You About My Religion/Faith Context

  • basic information about our religion/faith context and what it means to us
  • getting to know one another’s faith context

Session Three   -  September 29  Let Me Tell You About My Culture, My Country

  • introduction to one another’s socio-political context

  • clarifying misconceptions, seeking understanding

 Underlying theoretical/theological principles:

  • the narrative quality of human experience

  • religion rooted in sacred story

  • an evolving universe story

Readings for Part One
  • Steven Blackburn, “The Call”

  • Judith Caesar, Crossing Borders

  • Margaret Wheatley, Turning to One Another


“I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again.  
Simple, honest, human conversation.  Not mediation, negotiation, problem-solving, 
debate, or public meetings.
  Simple, truthful conversation where 
we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard,
and we each listen well.” 

Margaret Wheatley / Turning to One Another

Part Two  -  Dialogue: Principles and Praxis

Session Four   October 6      Sharing Our Sacred Scriptures

Visiting Faculty:  Efrain Agosto and Ingrid Mattson


  • Efrain Agosto, “Religious Leadership… Lessons from Jesus and Paul”
  • Wesley Ariarajah, The Bible and People of Other Faiths
  • Ingrid Mattson, “Stopping Oppression: An Islamic Obligation”

Session Five   October 13    Theological and Ethical Frameworks

Visiting Faculty:  Kelton Cobb and Heidi Hadsell
Team Faculty:     Ian Markham


  • Kelton Cobb, “Violent Faith”
  • Martin Forward, “What is Dialogue?”
  • Heidi Hadsell, “Internal Security and Civil Liberties”
  • Ian Markham, “Contrasting Reactions and the Challenge of Dialogue

Session Six   October 20      Spirituality, Ritual, Prayer

Visiting Faculty: Yehezkel Landau
Team Faculty:  Ibrahim Abu-Rabi’ and
Miriam Therese Winter


  • Clarissa Pinkola Estes, “The Lantern of Soul”
  • Yehezkel Landau (to be announced)
  • David Spangler, The Call
  • Miriam Therese Winter, “Witnessing to the Spirit”

Underlying dialogical principles (World Council of Churches):

  • dialogue begins when people meet
  • dialogue depends upon mutual understanding and mutual trust
  • dialogue makes it possible to share in service
  • dialogue becomes the medium of authentic witness

“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, 
but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, “The Lantern of Soul”


Part Three   Cross-cultural Conversations

Session Seven  October 27   Peace and Reconciliation

  • the global context
  • Indonesian conflict
  • initiatives for peace


  • Arundhati Roy, Talks on War 
  • Abu-Rabi’, “A … Critical Assessment of Modern Islamic History” 
  • Mohandas Gandhi, Essential Writings  
  • Susan Sontag, “Courage and Resistance”

Session Eight  November 3       Visit to a Mosque at the Start of Ramadan

  • social at mosque
  • focus on Islamic prayers
  • emphasis on experience

Session Nine  -  November 10       On Praying Together

  • possibilities and limitations
  • challenges and blessings
  • practical application

“God is present in all of us.  
Every moment I experience the truth that, though many, we are all one.”

Mohandas Gandhi, Essential Writings


Closing Session  -  Overview, Integration, Celebration

Session Ten   November 17           Celebrating Our Diversity

  • review readings, course goals and outcomes
  • reflect on learnings in the context of a shared meal 
  • closing ritual prayer

“In this turbulent time, we crave connection; we long for peace;
we want the means to walk through the chaos intact.
The peace we seek is found in experiencing ourselves as part of something
bigger and wiser than our little, crazed selves.
The community we belong to is all of life.”

Margaret Wheatley, Turning to One Another         


Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500