16 Aug 2010
Since we announced it, a number of people have said they would like to know more about our project with the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme to create opportunities for inter-faith discussion and encounter on the web.
So in this post I thought it would be useful to present some of the work we have done already and how you can help.
The Platform: Wireframes and Functionality
Meedan's main contribution is an online platform for cross-language discussion of scripture, religious thought and issues of relevance to faith communities in North America, Europe, the Middle East and beyond. In its first iteration, this open source platform will include a cross-language discussion page, a suite of translator tools including glossary and workflow management, and common social networking functionality such as profile pages. All content on the site will be made available in two languages thanks to a team of professional translators experienced in translating religious texts.
Since project launch in March, we have developed a set of wireframes based on extensive research on example users. You can see the evolution of the wireframes for phase 1 in Meedan's Flickr stream under the wireframes tag: http://www.flickr.com/photos/meedan/tags/wireframes
Inter-faith Project Links
Our thinking in this project is informed by a host of initiatives that have taken root on the web in this space over the past decade. To help understand what is out there we have developed a series of resources mapping the terrain. These are not exhaustive by any means, so if you know of work we should be watching and learning from, we would like to hear from you. You can help by contributing to our Google Doc wiki, adding bookmarks to our Delicious stream or suggesting rss feeds for our Netvibes page.
Our open wiki aims to map the terrain of online and offline inter-faith dialogue and scholarship between the Abrahamic faiths so that we can learn what works and benefit from existing knowledge. In it, we have identified an initial list of reseach institutes, nonprofits and foundations doing interesting things, as well as initiatives, journals and research. Your contributions are welcome.
We tag relevant pages of inter-faith stakeholders, initiatives, and research around the web using the inter-faith tag on Delicious. Your contributions are welcome.
We are developing a netvibes page to track foundations and other stakeholders working in the field. Your suggestions of important feeds are welcome. You can share these with us on Twitter - either with our @meedan account or my @georgeweyman account. Here's the first iteration of this page:
Background to the project: Scriptural Reasoning
Over the past ten years, the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme (CIP; www.interfaith.cam.ac.uk/), a programme of the Faculty of Divinity in the University of Cambridge, has developed a new model of how members of differing religious communities within a secular and religiously plural state can discuss public issues with each other in a way that does justice both to their communities’ specific sources of authority and traditions of reasoning, and to the need for a shared public conversation that does not privilege any one source of authority or tradition.
The model, called Scriptural Reasoning (SR), has been developed as a face-to-face practice, and tested with considerable success in academic and civic contexts in the UK, US, Canada, South Africa and Palestine/ Israel, with various combinations of Jewish, Christian and Muslim participants.
There is a range of literature about this now well-established practice, including academic literature:
Ford, D. (2007), ‘God and our public life: A scriptural wisdom’, International Journal of Public Theology 1.1: 63–81 Ford, D., and Pecknold, C. (2007), The Promise of Scriptural Reasoning, Oxford: Blackwell Higton, M., and Muers, R. (2011), The Text in Play: Experiments in Biblical and Scriptural Reasoning (forthcoming) Ochs, P., and Johnson, W.S. (2009), Crisis, Call and Leadership in the Abrahamic Traditions, New York: Palgrave– Macmillan
...guides, introductions and resources:
...and even YouTube videos:
The current face-to-face implementation of Scriptural Reasoning is, however, unavoidably limited: gathering multi-faith groups for discussion is expensive; numbers are limited; geographical constrains mean that participants tend to be from similar cultural backgrounds; and the mono-lingual nature of the discussions both reduces the range of possible participants and presents particular restraints for some Muslim participants for whom reliance on as yet untranslated Arabic textual authorities and traditions of reasoning is essential. This is where the idea of a platform for cross-language study and discussion came to the fore, as a significant opportunity to take the model forward.