I was fourteen when I first played Dungeons & Dragons. I had befriended a group of people in high school almost solely because they played. One of the boys developed a crush on me, so as a scheme for him to spend more time with me, I got invited to play. The boy and I never got together, but playing cemented a life long commitment to role playing in me. To this day, I can still recall some of the best and most frightening moments of that campaign. I still recall my Elven archer's name, Caitlin Silverbow, and I remember thinking picking an Elf as a first character was lame even back then.

I already shared that I learned much about leading a religious life from playing Dungeons & Dragons. It has shaped many of my ideas about clergy, the fundamentals of religion and polytheism. But Dungeons & Dragons--and any other type of role play I have ever played--taught me much more. It taught me how to handle myself in a group, how to graciously accept leadership, how precious life is, how giving up is never an option but most of all, it has taught me how to see things from the viewpoint of another person.

When life got hectic, I stopped role playing for about two years and I missed it very, very much. A few months ago, I rejoined a role playing website I frequented a lot when I was younger. It was like coming home. I realized just how much I had missed climbing into the world of another person. How much I had missed researching a topic I knew nothing about but which was an integral part of that person's life. The US marine corps, for example, or blacksmithing. Many of the random tidbits of information I use to impress people with at birthday parties come from role play research.

So why is this on a religious blog? Because I've been thinking about interfaith work a lot, and one of the key characteristics of a good interfaith worker is the ability to put themselves in the shoes of the other person and understand where they come from. To understand why they feel the way they feel. To have done the research and get the basics of their faith and how it relates to yours. As an interfaith worker, you build bridges and one way to do that is to provide anchor points for conversation.

I don't do enough interfaith work. I would like to do more but there isn't really a platform for it in the Netherlands. We tend to stick to our little islands and leave everyone alone. This goes for the Pagan community but also for the community of every other religious group. It sounds pretty ideal but it's not. The discrimination of Muslims is prevalent here as well. Anyone who wishes to build a religious structure other than a church will get harassed. We all like our islands too much and guard them ferociously. It's only when the islands rub together, everyone gets uncomfortable. And then no one wants to talk.

Role playing has taught me a lot, but it hasn't taught me how to initiate interfaith conversations, unless I stumble upon them. I have plans for the Dutch Pagan community but I'm a little hesitant to step further into it without decent interfaith skills. I could use some advice on how to structure these talks, organize them, even. Are any of you active in the interfaith world? If so, I would love to hear some of your experiences. Neil Gaiman said 'pretend to be someone who can do it... and then act like they would'. I think it's good advice. This, I have spent years mastering. This I can do. Here's to hoping it'll be enough.