Top figures from the Vatican and the World Council of Churches will be meeting this week with interfaith leaders around the world to launch a three-year joint study aimed at developing a shared code of conduct on the controversial issue of religious conversion.
According to a statement released Wednesday, some 30 participants are expected to join the discussion on Interreligious reflection on conversion from controversy to a shared code of conduct, in Velletri, Rome, May 12-16.
"The issue of religious conversion remains a controversial dimension in many interconfessional and interreligious relations," said the Rev. Dr Hans Ucko, head of the WCC's interreligious relations office. "We hope that at the end of this study project, we will be able to propose a code of conduct that will affirm that commitment to our faith never translates into denigration of the other.
The upcoming meeting will mark the latest in a new wave of interfaith dialogues surrounding hot-button issues that often stir interreligious clashes in real life.
Interfaith dialogue as it has been done in the last 50 years largely by the National Council of Churches is dead and no one is interested anymore, Richard Cizik, Vice President of Governmental Affairs at the National Association of Evangelicals, said during a late March gathering of interfaith panelists, sociologists, and politicians, in Washington. Today we are building dialogue that puts our deepest difference on the table, including evangelism.
The three-year project by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the WCCs Office on Interreligious Relations and Dialogue will confront those deepest differences from an interreligious point of view.
The group is expected to distinguish between witnessing and proselytizing a sensitive difference that has lead to the imprisonment and sometimes death of some missionaries to non-Christian countries. The study group will also discuss the pluralistic ideals of the freedom of thought as well as the concerns surrounding any encounter between people of different faiths.
Dialogue partners will include Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Indigenous religious adherents.