On the 24th August 2014, the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF) held its 34th World Congress at Birmingham City University hosting thirty nine speakers from all around the world. Over 250 delegates from 25 different countries attended and, the theme ‘Challenges for Religious Freedom in the Digital Era’ was discussed in order to answer the underlying questions arising today such as, Will we safeguard religious freedom more effectively using the fruits brought by the digital age? Or, to the contrary, will religious freedom be suffocated by multi-national corporations and the state?
Al-Mahdi Institute’s, Dr Ali Reza Bhojani attended the event and spoke of the ‘Divine wisdom in diversity; learning through difference.’ He addressed the theological purpose and value of Inter-faith engagement. He also examined to what extent our engagement with others is rooted from a proselytizing and missionary mindset and what ethic of engagement should a committed adherent bring to their engagement with other diverse individuals.
An abstract of his paper based on a close reading of the Surah Hujjarat (13) explains, “It will be argued that the observable fact of diversity and difference allows for understanding beyond the particularity of individual horizons that are necessarily limited by constraints such as, time, place, gender, culture and tradition. It will be argued that the Quran points to the purpose of diversity and difference as being a necessary means to allow for undertandings that can go beyond the necessary limits of the particular. Recognition of this ought to demand a moral disposition of an ‘epistemic humility’ that allows for an ethic of engagement which is always open, and in fact seeks to learn through difference.”