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Identity and Dialogue: Learnings from a Personal Interreligious Encounter

  • Toni FoleyEmail author
  • Maree Dinan-Thompson
Chapter

Abstract

Addressing conceptualisations of Catholic identity in Religious Education and acknowledging the reality of identity as polyvalent and paradoxically both static and changing, I grapple with my own experience of religious identity determined by encounters with religious others. By applying autoethnography, an approach developed to help researchers better understand cultural experience, to understanding religious experience, I utilise my experience of attending a Shabbat service with a Jewish colleague to organically engage my understanding of my Catholic identity in dialogue with the religious other. The process expanded my knowledge of both traditions, including the function of prayer, the concept of relationship with God, the role of community and the religious life of the individual. Critical reflection upon this encounter, while steeped within the discourse of my own prior knowledge and experience, offered me new possibilities for interreligious learning. It stretched my consciousness in relation to how I live my life, how I encounter diversity and what questions I ask. This reflection, and the subsequent internal and external dialogue it evoked, has created new insights into pedagogical opportunities for working with students and highlighted the importance of relationships and encounter with the other. This lived experience offers possibilities for the learning and teaching of religion in the contemporary classroom. Encountering religious diversity in the flesh, approached with the appropriate dispositions and skilful critical reflection, potentially offers students an expanded understanding of their own religious identity and the opportunity to breakdown negative stereotypes and humanise the religious other.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Catholic Education ServicesCairnsAustralia
  2. 2.James Cook UniversityCairnsAustralia

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