Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation
Interfaith Friendships
Interfaith Friendships

Interfaith Nonviolence

Friday, November 11, 2022

Almost twenty years ago, Jesuit peace activist John Dear wrote in the CAC’s journal Radical Grace about the nonviolent impact that interfaith cooperation can make:

At the heart of each major religion is the vision of peace, the ideal of a reconciled humanity, the way of compassion and love and justice, the fundamental truth of nonviolence.

Mahatma Gandhi [1869–1948] was the first to point toward interfaith nonviolence. . . . When he moved to India, and saw again the deep hostility between Hindus and Muslims, he made interfaith nonviolence the core of his daily worship. Each day when his community gathered for prayer, they read excerpts from the Hindu and Muslim scriptures, from the Sermon on the Mount and the Hebrew Bible. Then, they sat in silence for forty-five minutes. They concluded usually with a hymn about the all-inclusive love that reconciles everyone, the love even for one’s enemies. Forty years of interfaith, contemplative prayer transformed him into a universal spirit, as all the major religious scriptures hope for all of us. . . .

“Religions are different roads converging to the same point,” Gandhi once wrote. “What does it matter that we take different roads, so long as we reach the same goal?” [1] . . . [and] “There will be no lasting peace on earth unless we learn not merely to tolerate but even to respect the other faiths as our own.” [2]

As we learn from each other’s religion, Gandhi discovered, we can help each other deepen in the faith of our own personal tradition. His critique of organized Christianity—that it rejected the nonviolence of Jesus and has become an imperial religion based on the Roman empire—has helped innumerable Christians return to the core teachings of Jesus, beginning with the Sermon on the Mount. The Baptist Martin Luther King, Jr. testified that the Hindu Gandhi helped him more than anyone else to follow Christ.

Since the early 1980s, Dear has worked as an author, activist, and peacemaker, deeply influenced and inspired by interfaith friendships.

For the last twenty [now almost 40] years, I have experienced the deepest multicultural and interfaith connections through my work in the peace movement. I have developed many friendships across cultural and religious boundaries because of our shared vision of nonviolence. This interfaith peacemaking sprang from the Civil Rights Movement, when Dr. King called religious leaders to march with him to Selma. The friendship modeled between Dr. King, Rabbi Abraham Heschel and Thich Nhat Hanh still bears good fruit in our world and exemplifies the journey we must all make.

As the world hangs on the brink of nuclear and environmental destruction, as we wage war in the name of religion, we need to explore the religious roots of nonviolence, just as Gandhi did. Perhaps then, we will hear the call to disarm, to embrace one another as sisters and brothers, and welcome the gift of peace that has been already given.


[1] M. K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj and Other Writings, ed. Anthony J. Parel (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 53.

[2] M. K. Gandhi, In Search of the Supreme, vol. 3, ed. V. B. Kher (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing, 1962), 10.

John Dear, “The Common Ground of Interfaith Nonviolence,” Radical Grace 16, no. 2 (April–June 2003): 3.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jeremy Yap, Untitled (detail), 2017, photograph, Unsplash. Dann Zepeda, Untitled (detail), 2017, photograph, Unsplash. Austin Kehmeier, Untitled (detail), 2020, photograph, Unsplash. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

Image inspiration: Opening the door to difference—to include, rather than exclude—we see a beautiful beyond and receive the life water of new ways to see.

Story from Our Community:

A dear friend of mine’s favorite flowers are ones that most would overlook—dandelions and common tansies. The other day, I set out on my daily retreat onto a wooded trail when I spotted my friend’s flora —a common tansy affectionately and elegantly leaning into Queen Anne’s Lace. I wanted to take a picture but I told myself I’d capture it later. When I returned the next day, the tansies had been trampled and the poetry of the day before was totally gone. I didn’t get the photo, but I did, however, gain a new perspective. I realized how quickly things change in nature (and in life). It occurred to me how easily the natural world accepts the reality of new circumstances—something that we humans struggle to do. I wanted to say thank you to the CAC Staff and faculty, for all that you do; most of all for illuminating beautiful, sublime mysteries like this one. —Irma D.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


Navigate by Date

This year’s theme

A candle being lit

Radical Resilience

We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

The archives

Explore the Daily Meditations

Explore past meditations and annual themes by browsing the Daily Meditations archive. Explore by topic or use the search bar to find wisdom from specific teachers.

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.