This paper will contribute to the discourse on terminology connected to interfaith and interreligious studies, dialogues, and relations. At a closer look, the prefix “inter” in “inter-religious” may be problematic if one critically views the activities or situations it intends to describe. Let me elaborate a bit further on this.
The prefix “inter-” usually indicates a relation between stable, equal entities, where the boundaries between them are more or less fixed. In organized inter-religious relations, however, it is significant to acknowledge that relations established in the encounter itself are always situated in a broader context. This context is not only the immediate social, political, and religious current circumstances and geographical location, but also includes specific historical aspects, and in may include transnational spatial contexts if some of the participants have roots and relations to other geopolitical locations. The space of the dialogue is always connected to other spaces because the people involved are in motion. The discourse, the conversation and the group process in the dialogue have marks of other discourses, conversations and relations. In a critical perspective, this observation entails that inter-religious dialogues are marked in different ways by internal and external hierarchies of power and authority connected to gender, culture, ethnicity and class.
In an inter-religious dialogue, the question of representation and the questions of who is to decide the topics, the aims and the premises are crucial. A premise of an inter-religious or inter-faith dialogue is that people from different religious backgrounds and affiliations are present. The question is: What about other human differences?