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Piyali Mitra

Interrreligious Understanding Today


The advantage of having people interact on the same platform from different backgrounds and cultures is that it promotes multiculturalism amongst individuals. They say that travelling and gaining different experiences has a highly positive influence on one's personality. It teaches and exposes one to different settings and helps one to acquire social skills. One must agree though that it is not always possible for everyone to travel and thereby interact with people and gain experiences like this. That's where such a culturally enriching online course Interreligious Understanding Today comes to play its part.

I am a pre-doctoral researcher of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Calcutta, West Bengal, India. My doctoral research focuses on religious questions that we might face in the future if and when human embryonic research begins to realise its scientific and therapeutic promises. An attempt has been made to explain our preliminary reflections on how different religious communities respond to and assess the ethics of reproductive technologies, particularly the use of human embryo to conduct research. The influence of cultural factors, such as scientific knowledge and theological discourse, are proposed as key considerations in a deeper understanding of the dynamic culture/religion interface in the context of human embryo research. As an extension of my research, I decided to focus on individualist/collectivist value orientations and how people from different cultures reflect and enact values from these different orientations.

Cultures have the potential to influence religious interpretations, values and understanding at the same time. Communication has an important role to play in behavioural choices. Dialogue is the only way for us to come in contact with the 'whole' of which we all are a part. We see and think of the world in terms of separate objects which are the source of many of today's problems. However, modern technology puts each part of the world into almost instant contact with all the other parts. Yet, in spite of this world-wide system of linkages, there is, at this very moment, a general feeling that communication is breaking down everywhere. From the course Interreligious Understanding Today, I learned how the opportunity created in dialogue enables religions to clarify their doubts, misconceptions and misunderstandings about other faiths and further contributes towards other religions development and growth.

I am thankful to my co-participants and to the course leader for helping me to understand the significance of the strong bond between every individual. Unlike other online courses, in this course I never felt left out or alone, the co-participants and the course leader interacted with me throughout the course, the latter providing us with resourceful and enlightening feedback. The emphatic bond develops the link between self and others because it is how we as individuals understand what others are experiencing as if we were feeling it ourselves. Because of this, a kinship is initiated.

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