Goals, Principles, and Rules for Dialogue

Interreligious dialogue is not a simple thing. It takes careful effort, and often requires that certain personal and group commitments are in place in order to work well. The following represent some useful goals, skills, and rules, summarized from a wide variety of sources.[1] Reviewing these yourself, and with others in your group, will be of great benefit. They can also be referenced for participants at the beginning of any local dialogue gathering.


Before establishing principles and rules for dialogue, it is important to be clear about what the goals of such engagement are:

  • To increase self-awareness, understanding, and participation in your own faith tradition
  • To build bridges across differences and form sustainable friendships based on mutual trust and respect
  • To advocate for more inclusive communities by learning about and interacting with other faith traditions
  • To pursue peace and justice between Muslims and Christians, speaking out against all forms of prejudice, stereotyping, discrimination, and hate
  • To establish a greater basis for making common cause in service to the needs of others


The following represent some basic convictions which must be held as the foundation of any fruitful interfaith engagement.

  • Humility: Accept that you do not have a complete grasp on the truth, and that others have knowledge and experience that you need to receive.
  • Honesty: Represent your own tradition, and that of the other, accurately. Do not be afraid to admit if there is something you do not know or cannot understand
  • Respect: All people have inherent dignity and worth, and their personhood and core beliefs must be honored as such. Observing cultural and religious etiquette and manners is also an expression of this.
  • Trust: Assume that your conversation partners have come with sincerity and good faith. Cultivate a sense of mutual cooperation towards a common purpose, rather that seeing yourselves as opposing ‘sides’.
  • Dialogue: A monologue has one voice, while a dialogue has two. Interfaith conversations are not about one person convincing another about which of their viewpoints is right or wrong, nor do they seek to arrive at an agreement. The aim is to allow all parties to share their perspective and gifts with the others.


The principles above can be translated into some concrete commitments that help to facilitate positive relationship and healthy exchange.

  • As far as possible set aside prior assumptions, beliefs, and/or judgments which deter from listening and learning. Come with an open mind.
  • Listen in order to understand rather than to respond. Listen compassionately, trying to place yourself in the place of the other. Do not dominate a discussion, and give everyone a chance to be heard.
  • Allow the same right of self-expression to the other as you expect for yourself.
  • Always begin by identifying common ground and points of connection, and on that basis, and in that spirit, go on to discuss areas of difference.
  • Speak as an individual, based on your personal experience. Avoid sweeping statements like ‘all Christians know’ or ‘all Muslims believe’
  • Refrain from confrontational and emotionally charged speech, body language, and facial expressions.
  • Do not derail conversation by obsessing over a single historical injustice or point of political tension.
  • If someone is not observing these principles and rules, speak to them about it and remind them of the expectations around their participation.

The nature and context of your particular group may call for other norms and guidelines. You should feel free to add, subtract, or adapt as necessary.



[1] Links to other such resources can be found online at acommonword.ca

Scroll to Top