Clare Amos, a member of the Church of England, is the new World Council of Churches programme executive for inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.
The interfaith meeting in Assisi and 'Day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world' called by Pope Benedict XVI a 'Day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world' “has a great potential for peace," she says.
"There cannot be peace in the world without peace among the religions. Efforts of coming together as religions to work for common concerns are imperative to peace, which is the message of Assisi,” Amos added.
Dr Amos, who joined the WCC this fall, specialized in theology at the University of Cambridge and Ecole Biblique et Archeologique Francaise in Jerusalem, after which she spent more than ten years in Jerusalem and Lebanon where she was deeply involved with interfaith concerns and theological education.
She has authored several books on biblical studies, interfaith relations and spirituality.
After being married to Alan Amos, then Anglican chaplain in Beirut, Amos worked for the Middle East Council of Churches and the Near East School of Theology in the early eighties. While living in Beirut, her experience of dialogue was rooted in the difficult years of Lebanese civil war and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
Amos considers engaging churches in the Middle East in dialogue as one of the priorities in her tasks at the council.
“In the Middle East one cannot ignore the dimensions of other faiths. We were confronted by the challenges of how to read the New Testament given the influence of Christianity’s relationship with Judaism, while not ignoring how the Hebrew scriptures were used to justify political actions of the modern Israeli government, which affected the lives of Christians and Muslims in the holy land,” says Amos.
The WCC programme on Christian self-understanding amid many religions is a major initiative of inter-religious dialogue, says Amos. She envisions a special emphasis in this area, which she feels is essential in understanding our own traditions as Christians.
“Interfaith engagement is also about discovering who we are. This is why the WCC programme of Christian self-understanding in the context of religious plurality is important. This is where Christians along with Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists rediscover their own identities – an important motivation for interfaith dialogue.”
Amos also hopes to develop inter-religious cooperation in the area of advocacy for religious freedom, human rights and protection of religious minorities which have formed a focus of the WCC programmes. At the same time, she is hoping to work extensively for ecumenical and theological dialogue.
“I am keen to work towards ecumenical dialogue, which happens among Christians. The similarities between interfaith and intra-faith dialogue are complex. I am looking forward to addressing these challenges in my work at the council.”