Scriptural reasoning movement engages students in multi-faith dialogue

By  Scott Mair, Youth Speak News
  • June 25, 2010
religious symbolsLONDON, Ont. - A movement dedicated to studying sacred texts to promote friendship between people of different faiths hosted its first Canadian conference at Huron University College in London June 27-30.

Scriptural reasoning is a practice where Christians, Jews and Muslims study each other’s sacred texts. The goal is to give people of different faiths a way to transcend their religious differences and foster trust and understanding. This is the third scriptural reasoning conference to be hosted in North America.  


Jewish student Greg Beiles said he hoped the event would provide a model for more forums that would attempt to facilitate interfaith dialogue among youth.

“Hopefully, I can get an idea on how to do a similar project with school teachers and students,” Beiles said. “I would get kids from Jewish, Christian and Muslim schools to learn about each other and not be afraid of one another. If adults can do it, kids can do it too.”

Scriptural reasoning started at the University of Virginia in 2007 with Jews, Christians and Muslims studying texts concerning one’s duty to the poor.

“In scriptural reasoning, small groups discuss selected texts from the Koran, the Tanakh (or Hebrew Bible) and the Christian Bible,” said Kathryn Schade, the co-ordinator of Huron’s Centre for Abrahamic Religions.

This year, Schade said, conference participants will examine Deuteronomy 6:29 from the Tanakh, Corinthians 3:1-9 from the Bible and Sura 56:67-74 from the Koran. Each text is about teaching and learning, the theme of this year’s conference. Studying all three gives people a better understanding of their own sacred text, Schade said.

“When you see your own text through someone else’s eyes it can allow you to re-examine your views about your sacred text.”

One Muslim student planning to attend, Omar Ha-Redeye, said he expects to understand Scripture and gain insight by engaging others in dialogue.

“(I expect) scriptural reasoning to introduce people to interpretations and perspectives they may not have thought of,” Ha-Redeye said.

Dan Smith, the college’s theology professor and conference organizer, acknowledged that participants in scriptural reasoning reap many benefits, but that  greater understanding of other Scriptures is a key goal.

“It’s a process where all participants (read) the Scriptures, giving us a better understanding of them,” he said. “For instance, when we sit down to read a text from the New Testament, I have to step back and let others read it and how their scriptural interpretation applies to my text.

“Then one begins (to see) what it means to read a text in a Muslim way or in a Jewish way, leading to mutual understanding.”

Smith said the theme helps convey what scriptural reasoning is all about.

“The texts that we’ve selected and the theme that we’ve selected are in keeping with the whole idea of scriptural reasoning because it’s about teaching and learning Scripture,” Smith said. “I’m hoping for a good discussion.”

Smith hopes to expand scriptural reasoning beyond London to the rest of the country.

(Mair, 19, is a second-year communications student at Carleton University).

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