EDUCATIONAL PRINCIPLES AND METHODOLOGY
Sharing wisdom takes place through the encounter with scriptures, the history of their interpretation, the various expressions of wisdom within the tradition, and the wisdom of those present, as they have been shaped by their tradition. We regard Sharing wisdom as the key activity in building deep relationships and understanding between people of faith.
Each tradition is best equipped to interpret its scriptures, in light of context and with knowledge of its history. Other traditions may have insight to bring, when looking at sources of a given tradition. Hence, we invite interreligious readings, with the goal of opening new horizons, while respecting the primary interpretive role of the host community.
The Elijah Method for Healthy Sharing of Wisdom
There are certain principles that characterize healthy sharing of wisdom. These include:
- Respect for the beliefs and religions of each participant: creating an environment where each faith is valued and respected.
- Respect for the sources: Each text is acknowledged as a ‘sacred source’ and studied for its inherent, authentic meaning for adherents of the faith from which it emanates.
- Respect for academic rigour: While respected and recognized as sacred, each source is subjected to analysis in accord with legitimate academic methods.
- Openness to multiple interpretations: Within the parameters of respect, questioning and dialogue are encouraged in this pluralistic learning environment.
- Respectful learning does not preclude the use of humour and encouraging a lively spirit of interpersonal interaction.
Principles of Text Study
When studying sources:
- Attention should be paid to the origin of the source, including the author and historical setting, the status of the source within the faith system, the influence the source has had historically and the influence the source has for contemporary followers.
- The key questions to pose are: ‘What is the wisdom that is contained in this passage? In what way does it help the believers lead a better spiritual life? What are the spiritual fruits of this teaching?’ In encountering scriptures of the other: ‘What in this text or teaching elicits respect in me? What challenges me (including difficulties I have with it)? What do I find inspiring about it?’
- Participants should be encouraged to discuss texts in pairs or small groups, creating opportunity for each person to express opinions.
- Although the facilitator may have a strong opinion about the appropriate/ correct interpretation of a text, alternate interpretations should be articulated and examined respectfully.
- If sources are presented in translation, participants must understand the limitations of translation and be made aware of multiple understandings/ interpretations of texts.
- Participants need to be made aware that no faith has a monolithic position and facilitators need to indicate the complexities and contradictions from within each faith group. Participants should be encouraged to add further sources for comparison and for expansion of the discussion.
Stages of the Process
A good facilitator will lead participants through a learning process
- Reading: It is important to read the source aloud, often more than once, and to ensure that every participant has heard and understood the words.
- Listening: Try to hear and learn the logic of the other tradition to the full, before responding, critiquing.
- Asking: Clarify what is needed for genuine understanding by encouraging participants to pose relevant questions.
- Discerning: What are the key issues being tackled or the key questions being answered and what other issues are raised in the process?
- Comparing: Identify similar issues, challenges, processes in different traditions. Try to ascertain to what degree different traditions are indeed similar or different.
- Reflecting: Reflect on significant questions:
What is the price for the choices we make? What price does my tradition pay and what price does another tradition pay for making specific choices?
What has been helpful – What have been constructive ways that my tradition has coped with a given issue? Can they be extended to another tradition?
Can we learn from one another how to meet challenges, difficulties?
- Overcoming stereotypes: Encourage participants to ask themselves if what has been studied has confirmed or broken stereotypes? How has our perception of a tradition changed through this study process?
- Inspiration: Ask what has been inspiring in what has been studied together?
Seek inspiration within one’s own tradition, especially in dealing with problems relevant to the tradition under discussion, in a process of mutual inspiration.