Academic Programs 

Interreligious Dialogue: Challenge and Opportunities   (TH-662)
Summer 2005

In a world that daily provides us with reminders about the tensions between the different religious traditions in the world, this course will explore the whole issue of interreligious dialogue.  Starting with some of the fundamental principles of dialogue, the course then moves through the areas of: ethical disagreement, exploring different belief systems, facing up to difficult political issues, and finding ways to worship together.  In addition, students will be given guidance in how to start their own interfaith dialogue.  At the end of the course, it is hoped that we will appreciate both the importance, challenges, and opportunities of interreligious dialogue. 


Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Monday, June 20 – Friday, June 24 from 9:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Hans Ucko
Adjunct Professor of Interreligious Dialogue and Program Executive in Interreligious Relations and Dialogue, World Council of Churches

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9500


Course Syllabus

The recommended literature, providing space for Christian as well as Jewish and Muslim voices, is not per se theological literature but reflections coming out of experiences in dialogue leading to theological reflection.
  • Starting with some of the fundamental principles of dialogue:

One of the functions of dialogue is to allow participants to describe and witness to their faith in their own terms. This is of primary importance since self-serving descriptions of other peoples' faith are one of the roots of prejudice, stereotyping, and condescension. (WCC Guidelines on Dialogue in Community)

  • Walking through the history of dialogue in the ecumenical movement:

We find ourselves recognizing a need to move beyond a theology which confines salvation to the explicit personal commitment to Jesus Christ. (WCC Statement from Baar)

  • Looking at identity and religion:

If I am I, because I am I, and you are you because you are you, then I am I and you are you. But if I am I because you are you and you are you because I am I, then I am not I and you are not you.  (Rabbi of Kotzk)

  • Discussing religion and violence:

In response to a secularized intelligentsia, at least in the West, we have tried too hard to put a positive face on religion, when the truth is we know that all religions have their demonic underside. (Harvey Cox)

  • Exploring interreligious prayer and worship:

The people I can pray with, I can't talk to, and the people I can talk to, I can't pray with. (Ernst Simon)

  • Looking at possibilities to engage in regional, local and thematic interfaith networking:

That which we can do together, we should not do separately. (Faith & Order)

Throughout the course and via different foci we will delve into different belief systems and their possible ethical implications and disagreements as well as facing difficult political issues. At the end of the course, it is hoped that we will appreciate the importance, challenges, and opportunities of interreligious dialogue.



  1. To come to an informed understanding of interreligious relations and dialogue, including attitude and ethical values and implications for relations between people of different faiths;
  2. To learn about interreligious relations and dialogue as it has been pursued by the WCC since the World Mission Conference in Edinburgh 1910, including a review of texts produced and their interpretations;
  3. To become familiar with the involvement of different religious traditions in the WCC work on interreligious relations and dialogue;
  4. To realize the ambiguous relation between identity and religion in today’s religiously and culturally plural world and the increasing role of religion in public life and in conflicts situation


Readings and writing assignment

1. Prior to the start of the class, students are requested

a.   to read Hans Ucko, Common Roots, New Horizons, WCC, Geneva 1994 chapters 4 (pp.37-50) and 8 (pp.85-100)

b.   to write max. 5 pages on experiences, personal reflections and concerns on and in relation to interreligious dialogue. This written assignment should be sent to the Hartford Seminary, attention Dr. Hans Ucko latest by 17 June 2005.

2. The readings of the course will use the following books and documents for study and consideration

a.  Amin Maalouf, On Identity, The Harvill Press, London 2000

b.  Jonathan Sachs, The Dignity of Difference, How to Avoid the Clash of Civilisations, Continuum, London – New York, 2003

c.   Tariq Ramadan, Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, Oxford University Press, New York 2004, pp.200-213

d.    Pro Dialogo – Current Dialogue Bulletin 1998/2 Interreligious Prayer

e.    Theological Perspectives on Plurality, An Ecumenical Consultation in Baar, Switzerland, WCC Geneva 1990

f.     Ecumenical Considerations for Dialogue and Relations with
People of other Religions
, WCC, Geneva 2003

g.    International and Global Interreligious Initiatives, WCC, Geneva 2004

h.   Religious Plurality and Christian Self- Understanding, a document produced by the networks of Faith & Order, CWME and Interreligious Relations and Dialogue, WCC Geneva 2005


Written Assignment

A fifteen-page double spaced paper on a subject related to the subject matter of the course, and agreed upon by student and professor. The paper should combine insights from readings and lectures along with personal reflections by the students.

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