Interfaith Explainer: The Difference Between Intrafaith, Interfaith, Multifaith and Interspirituality

  • Intrafaith, interfaith, multifaith and interspirituality are words that mean very different things. Yet, they are sometimes used interchangeably and without distinction. The following definitions should help people discern and understand the differences.

Intrafaith = Within

When someone proposes an intrafaith conversation, it means a conversation within a specific faith or religion, for instance, Christians speaking with Christians from other denominations. Also known as ecumenical, these interactions can be critical for social cohesion, as exemplified by interactions between Evangelicals and Catholics, Sunni and Shia Muslims, Orthodox and cultural Jews, and many more.

Interfaith = Between/Among

Interfaith refers to relations between faiths, spiritual paths, or even worldviews. It does not have to be restricted to religion alone because one way to define faith is as “complete trust, confidence or strong belief in someone or something.”

Interfaith work is usually about improving relations between people of different faiths, but it can also revolve around working with people of other faiths. For example, many interfaith organizations—some of whom started as ecumenical organizations—pool their resources and help those who need food and housing.

Interfaith has nothing to do with uniformity, conformity, or sacrificing one’s beliefs. The goal of most interfaith work is to foster harmonious diversityThe Parliament of the World’s Religions is a fantastic example.


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