'Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?'
Interfaith dialogue is what happens when people of different religions come together to talk about their faith in an open and constructive manner. The "constructive" part of this conversation is absolutely crucial to the definition of interfaith dialogue. Religions are in discussion with one another all the time, all over the world, but too often these discussions are destructive rather than productive.
Religious fear, hatred, and discrimination has plagued humanity for millennia. This doesn't mean that religion itself is bad. Human beings seem to have an endless capacity for finding reasons to fight and hurt each other, many of them having nothing to do with religion. Religion, in many ways, has been a source of abundant good in the world. It has inspired some of humanity's greatest writers, poets, artists, and scientists. It has driven us to think about morality and about the truly important things in life.
We have to preserve the good aspects of religion and learn to move on from the bad. One of the best ways for Christians to do this is to enter into dialogue with people of different faiths, to offer peace and understanding, and to build bridges where there once was discord.
Religious leaders worldwide already belong to many interfaith organizations and attend numerous annual gatherings intended to create peace and dialogue between different faiths. What is needed now is for regular believers to open up a dialogue with each other as well.
As Christians it is important that we follow the example set by Jesus when we encounter people who believe differently than us and who may at first show some hostility. If you need motivation to remain peaceful and loving in such situations, then just remember these spiritually inspiring Bible verses from Luke 9:52-56:
"And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, 'Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?' But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village."
Though the Samaritan village is not welcoming to Jesus' messengers, Jesus rebukes His disciples when they express the desire to destroy the unbelievers. Jesus does not ask us to fight those who share a different faith from ourselves. We are meant to engage with them in patience and understanding or, if they are not willing to offer the same kindness in return, to walk away and find people who will.
The more you talk and get to know someone of a different faith, the less different and frightening their beliefs become. It doesn't mean that you have to change anything about your own faith, it simply means that you are willing to listen and be respectful in the interest of doing your part to promote peace and understanding in the world. Engaging in interfaith dialogue can, in fact, lead you to a greater involvement with and appreciation of your own beliefs. Remember that God means for us to love everyone, not just other Christians.
"O Lord God, do not destroy Your people, Your inheritance, which You have redeemed through Your greatness, which You have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do not look at the stubbornness of this people or at their wickedness or their sin. Otherwise, the land from which You brought us may say, 'Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land which He promised them and because He hated them, He has brought them out to slay them in the wilderness.' Yet they are your people, Your inheritance, whom You brought out by Your mighty power and by Your stretched-out arm."