Finding Common Ground: Learning to Value People From Other Religious Groups

As the city bus pulls up and opens the door, you clamor aboard with seven or eight other people. By now the turbaned driver is no longer a curiosity to you. He arrives each day like clockwork, politely nodding in greeting.

She works five shifts a week, rain or shine, in a tollbooth on a windy expressway. One day you look past her and notice a porcelain bowl of fruit tucked into a corner along with a couple of sticks of incense. Is there some kind of meaning to that? 

On a Sabbath afternoon walk at the park, you notice another nicely dressed family. At first you wonder if they might be Adventists, but then you see that the father and sons are each wearing a yarmulke. Should you say Happy Sabbath or Shabbat Shalom? 

Such are the modern-day dilemmas of knowing what to do or say when meeting people from other cultures and world religions. Perhaps we are curious and would like to make some sort of friendly overture. We’d like our children to feel confident about reaching out to others, but how can we teach them to do that when we are unsure ourselves? Perhaps we worry too much about accidentally offending someone, finding it easier to stay within our own circles of friendship. 

According to one study, in North America 35.6 percent of Buddhists, 22.7 percent of Hindus, and 67.8 percent of Muslims say they don’t know even one Christian personally. They live in our neighborhoods and eat at the tables next to us in restaurants—but they don’t know us, and we don’t make them our friends.

That is an uncomfortable truth, but now Adventist Mission has produced a new resource to help us. Ganoune Diop, director of the Global Mission Study Centers, has recently produced Understanding World Religions, a set of four DVDs that opens the door to comprehending the beliefs, values, and practices of major religious traditions. By identifying areas of common understanding—such as respect, honor, family relationships, justice, love, cooperation, and supporting one another—the series can help build bridges between faith groups. 

The four-disc set is the first in a series and covers Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and Postmodernism. It retails for $39.99. To order, visit, or call 800-648-5824.

Third Quarter 2010


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