Strategies for peace integration into one’s daily life

The first observance of the World Day of Peace was on January 1, 1968. In his address for that first observance, Paul VI established the day as a mandate for the Church to recognize its social mission and call faithful men and women to their duty to work for integral human development.
Every pope since — St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis — has issued a new World Day of Peace message annually. And these messages have included major ideas and teaching from these popes. In 1972, Paul VI coined his famous axiom, “If you want peace, work for justice”; John Paul II turned attention to the environment in 1990, a time when environmental ethics was not nearly as prominent of a topic as today; and in 2006 Benedict XVI offered a nuanced theological preview of his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate in a message entitled “In Truth, Peace.” And now, Pope Francis continues this legacy, and has even augmented it.

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Pope Francis has defined his pontificate with his urging of the Church to go to the margins of society, he has been in many ways a pope of peace and justice. In his pastoral visit recently in Chile reminded the people to work for it. “Do you want peace? Then work for peace. A peacemaker knows that it is not enough simply to say: ‘I am not hurting anybody.’ As St. Alberto Hurtado used to say, ‘It is very good not to do wrong, but very bad not to do good.’” Pope Francis said that peace and justice will not come to those who are compliant.
Our Constitutions remind us that as Servites: our ideal is to reach the perfect stature of Christ, we shall have only relationships of peace, mercy, justice and constructive love toward creatures. (Cost 299). In our community gatherings, parish meetings and apostolic ministries I encourage every member of the Servite family to use these four strategies by which you can integrate peace building in one’s daily life:
1. Learn. Read the World Day of Peace message. There are numerous websites to learn about Catholic efforts for peace and justice. Visit the website, scan their news updates, and read about their work..
2. Inform. Start a conversation about the World Day of Peace message on social media about creating a better world.
3. Act. Visit the Catholic website on Peace and read their toolkit for action. Affiliate with Peace organizations and movements.
4. Pray. Join Pope Francis in praying for peace. Pope Francis has launched a special Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace on February 23, 2018 for war-torn nations, in particular for the Democratic Republic of Congo and for South Sudan that are suffering protracted conflict, and he has invited all men and women, regardless of their religious denomination, to join.

 

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Migrants and Refugees: interesting facts, then and now

Every year, a Pontifical Message is published on the occasion of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, an event that originates from the circular letter “Pain and Concerns”, which the Sacred Congregation sent on December 6, 1914 to the Italian Diocesan Ordinaries. It is in this letter  recalls for the first time it was asked to set up an annual day to raise awareness on the phenomenon of migration and also to promote a collection in favor of pastoral work for Italian emigrants and for the preparation of emigration missionaries. As a consequence of that letter, on 21st February 1915 the first celebration of this Day took place.

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Migrants and refugees challenge us. Every day the dramatic situation of many men and women, forced to abandon their land continues to question us. We must not forget, for example, the current tragedies of the sea that have migrants as victims. According to the dramatic calculation reported by the International Organization for Migration, there are more than 3,000 migrants and refugees who lost their lives in 2017 in an attempt to cross the Mediterranean from the beginning of 2017. From the tragedy of Lampedusa in October 2013 – a shipwreck which cost the lives of 360 people – migrants dead in the Mediterranean were over 15,000.

104th WORLD DAY OF MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES 2018

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Pope Francis presided the Eucharistic celebration for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Sunday January 4, 2018.  About 10, 000 people from the world over attended the service in St Peter’s Basilica, including migrants and refugees who are now part of the Diocese of Rome. He reminded the catholic faithful to treat newcomers with respect and dignity. In his homily, Francis quoted a line from his message for the day, published Aug. 2, 2017: “Every stranger who knocks on our door is an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ, who identifies himself with the foreigner who has been accepted or rejected in every age (cf. Mt 25:35-43).” The Pope asked governments and society to keep four things in mind – migrants and refugees need to be welcomed, protected, integrated and have their development promoted.

Welcoming means, above all, offering broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally. This calls for a concrete commitment to increase and simplify the process for granting humanitarian visas and for reunifying families. Special temporary visas should be granted to people fleeing conflicts in neighboring countries.  Collective and arbitrary expulsions of migrants and refugees are not suitable solutions, particularly where people are returned to countries which cannot guarantee respect for human dignity and fundamental rights

Protecting may be understood as a series of steps intended to defend the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees, independent of their legal status. Such protection begins in the country of origin, and consists in offering reliable and verified information before departure, and in providing safety from illegal recruitment practices

Promoting essentially means a determined effort to ensure that all migrants and refugees – as well as the communities which welcome them – are empowered to achieve their potential as human beings in all the dimensions: human, social, professional, religious

Integrating concerns the opportunities for intercultural enrichment brought about by the presence of migrants and refugees.  Integration is not “an assimilation that leads migrants to suppress or to forget their own cultural identity. Rather, contact with others leads to discovering their ‘secret’, to being open to them in order to welcome their valid aspects and thus contribute to knowing each one better.

In line with her pastoral tradition, the Church is ready to commit herself to realizing all the initiatives proposed above.  Yet in order to achieve the desired outcome, the contribution of political communities and civil societies is indispensable, each according to their own responsibilities.

Geoengineering (Climate Engineering)- a solution for climate change?

(S. Vincent Anesthasiar,CMF)

Secretariat for JPIC , E mail: jpiccmf@cmfgen.org

Curia Generalizia, 00197 Roma.

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The invention of steam engine by James Watt in 1784 accelerated the use of gas, oil and coal(fossil fuel). The burning of fuel causes emission of carbon dioxide(CO2) . The CO2 increases the global temperature. At the era of industrial revolution( 1784-1800) the temperature of the planet was 0.8 °C lesser than the present temperature. For example the temperature of Chennai( India) was 28 °C then and whereas now it is 29.5°C.

 

The Paris Climate agreement (came into force in November 2016) aims to limit the global temperature rise between 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial levels. To achieve this the CO2 emission has to be reduced. To control the temperature, the allowed carbon budget till the year 2100 is 2860 Giga Tonnes (Gt). But now the annual global CO2 emission is 40 Gt. At this rate, the global carbon in 2100 will be 3320 Gt. This is a very alarming stage.

After the Paris agreement the nations have not taken any initiative to reduce the CO2 emission; the worst is that the US has withdrawn its support for Paris Agreement on June 1, 2017. At this stage to address this climate problem the scientists have come out with Geoengineering/Climate engineering, to fix mechanically, the climate issue.

 

Geoengineering(Climate Engineering)?:

The volcanic eruptions, pump the soot and Sulphur dioxide into the upper atmosphere. These prevent the sun rays coming to the earth. So the earth becomes cool. So volcanic eruptions are natural efforts of the earth to save itself. The scientists say that the humans can play the volcano; the aerosol particles and sulphur dioxide can be injected into the atmosphere mechanically to prevent the sun rays reaching the earth. This method is called Solar Radiation

 

Management(SRM).

The nose filters the carbon in the air that is breathed. Similarly, study is also underway, to filter the  carbon which is in the air and to store them in the ground. Ocean fertilization is another method to remove the existing atmospheric carbon. In this method nutrients are spread in certain parts of ocean to increase the algal growth. In turn the algal will intake the CO2. When algal die and reach the sea bottom, the carbon in the algal gets deposited in the sea bed. To reduce the carbon going into the atmosphere, experimentation is on to capture the carbon from the emitted smoke, before it goes into atmosphere. Another method under study is to burn the firewood(biomass) in low oxygen condition. So that the biomass becomes charcoal which can be powdered and mixed with soil.

 

Critique of Geoengineering:

There are diverse opinions, on the utility of geoengineering to tackle the climate question. It is said that the SRM method is very expensive; it might require 100 billion euros yearly. Once these methods are employed they  cannot be stopped; stopping would adversely raise the temperature. Because of these manipulations, the oceans will become more acidic, and the skies will become subtly darker; rainfall patterns could be affected; the ozone layer can be affected; the use of these techniques is like using umbrella; umbrella does not cancel the rain, it only makes the water fall away from the head; similarly the solar rays prevented in one part of the globe affects the other parts, causing drought etc. The rich nations and people can use the geoengineering to threaten and sanction other nations. Like economic sanctions there can be climate sanctions in the future.

 

Climate Geoengineering cannot provide a “quick fix” for the climate change problem. One cannot eat the cake and keep it; so also without changing the consumeristic pattern of life we ca not keep the planet healthy. The atmosphere is common for all and for all the generations to come. How can this generation decide for the generations to come? Even to conduct the research on geoengineering methods and to use them, global consent is needed. So questions are raised on ‘ who can make the decisions related to the research and the use? When these methods used, who will take care of the people affected by these methods? So there are moral, spiritual, economic, environmental and governance questions related to geoengineering. So a broad dialogue is needed, involving the participation of scientists, religious persons, economists, political scientists, environmentalists and philosophers. We are not sure whether there was a chance for public to debate when Genetic engineering was under study. But now Genetic modification(GM) on species and plants/food have made the life forms chemical dependent; GM has spoiled the health of the body, food crops, water, fishery, sea, soil and atmosphere. So now we have to initiate public discussion on geoengineering. The scientists welcome the public views. So we can take this to people and give feed back to scientific community.

 

 

La Prima Giornata Mondiale dei Poveri e i Servi di Maria

  1. La Prima Giornata Mondiale dei Poveri

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La Giornata mondiale dei poveri, che si è celebrato per la prima volta il 19 novembre, è stata istituita da Papa Francesco al termine del Giubileo della misericordia, nella lettera apostolica “Misericordia et misera”. “Alla luce del Giubileo delle persone socialmente escluse, mentre in tutte le cattedrali e nei santuari del mondo si chiudevano le Porte della Misericordia, ho intuito che, come ulteriore segno concreto di questo Anno Santo straordinario, si debba celebrare in tutta la Chiesa, nella ricorrenza della XXXIII Domenica del Tempo Ordinario, la Giornata mondiale dei poveri”, scrive Francesco a conclusione della lettera apostolica. È lui stesso, così, a rivelare la genesi della sua iniziativa, pensata in uno dei momenti più inediti, commoventi ed eloquenti del Giubileo, in una piazza San Pietro popolata da migliaia di senza tetto, poveri ed emarginati per la giornata dell’Anno della Misericordia a loro dedicata.

L’indizione della Giornata mondiale dei poveri, che si aggiunge alle altre giornate mondiali indette dai Pontefici su svariate tematiche sociali, come la pace, le immigrazioni, ecc., ha la particolarità questa volta di non trattare una tematica. In primo luogo al centro della giornata , con il richiamo alla concretezza: «Figlioli, non amiamo a parole né con la lingua, ma con i fatti e nella verità» (1 Gv 3,18) Non è la Giornata mondiale della povertà , ma la Giornata dei poveri , cioè di persone concrete; è la giornata dell’invito a incontrare il povero, a condividere con lui anzitutto il tempo dell’accoglienza e dell’ascolto, la mensa e i suoi bisogni. Papa Francesco per primo ci ha indirizzato a viverla in questo senso pranzando in quel giorno con 1.500 poveri in sala Paolo VI.

Chi sono è poveri?

L’elenco dei “mille volti” della povertà è al centro del Messaggio per la Giornata mondiale dei poveri: dolore, emarginazione, sopruso, violenza, torture, prigionia e guerra, privazione della libertà e della dignità, ignoranza e analfabetismo, emergenza sanitaria e mancanza di lavoro, tratta e schiavitù, esilio e miseria. Verso di loro, spesso alziamo muri e recinti, pur di non vederli e non toccarli, dall’altro della nostra “ricchezza sfacciata”. Sono i poveri gli invitati in piazza San Pietro, insieme a tutti noi, chiamati da Papa Francesco alla “condivisione” per non amare a parole ma con i fatti, come Francesco d’Assisi con il lebbroso. I poveri, ammonisce il Papa nel Messaggio, non sono i semplici destinatari di una buona pratica di volontariato. Non si può restare indifferenti “alla povertà che inibisce lo spirito di iniziativa di tanti giovani, impedendo loro di trovare un lavoro; alla povertà che anestetizza il senso di responsabilità inducendo a preferire la delega e la ricerca di favoritismi; alla povertà che avvelena i pozzi della partecipazione e restringe gli spazi della professionalità umiliando così il merito di chi lavora e produce; a tutto questo occorre rispondere con una nuova visione della vita e della società”. L’invito alla prima Giornata mondiale dei poveri è rivolto a tutti, indipendentemente dall’appartenenza religiosa.

  Continue reading ‘La Prima Giornata Mondiale dei Poveri e i Servi di Maria’

WORLD DAY OF THE POOR

By Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis will celebrate the Catholic Church’s first World Day of the Poor Nov. 19 by celebrating a morning Mass with people in need and those who assist them. After Mass, he will offer lunch to 500 people in the Vatican audience hall.

As the Year of Mercy was ending in November 2016, Pope Francis told people he wanted to set one day aside each year to underline everyone’s responsibility “to care for the true riches, which are the poor.”

The result was the World Day of the Poor, which is to be marked annually on the 33rd Sunday of ordinary time on the church’s liturgical calendar.

An admonition from St. John Chrysostom “remains ever timely,” Pope Francis said in a message for the 2017 celebration. He quoted the fifth-century theologian: “If you want to honor the body of Christ, do not scorn it when it is naked; do not honor the eucharistic Christ with silk vestments and then, leaving the church, neglect the other Christ suffering from cold and nakedness.”

The pope chose “Love not in word, but in deed” as the theme for 2017.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization is coordinating the celebration and issued a resource book — available online at www.pcpne.va — that includes Scripture meditations, sample prayer services and suggestions for parishes and dioceses.

An obvious starting place, the council said, is to reach out “to places such as soup kitchens, shelters, prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, treatment centers, etc., so that the words of the pope could arrive to everyone at the same time on this day.”

Every parish and Catholic group, it said, should organize at least one practical initiative, such as “taking groceries to a needy family, offering a meal for the poor, purchasing equipment for elderly persons who are not self-sufficient, donating a vehicle to a family, or making a contribution to the Caritas fund for families.”

One of the primary goals of the day, the council said, is to help Catholics answer the question, “Who are ‘the poor’ today, and where are they around me, in the area in which I live?” and then to find ways to share and create relationships with them.

The resource book also offered 18 “saints and blesseds of charity of the 20th and 21st centuries” as examples. The list is led by St. Teresa of Kolkata, but also includes Blessed Oscar Romero of San Salvador and U.S. St. Katharine Drexel and Blessed Stanley Rother.

 

INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE

Peter L. Laurence

 

What is Dialogue?

The historic encounters between religious, political, racial and ethnic groups have often been violent, as one group seeks to impose its will on another.  Even in societies where two or more groups seem to co-exist, the majority population will tend to exert its power over the minorities, and members of minority groups live in a perpetual state of discrimination.  In such struggles, the “other” is usually depicted by each of the groups through stereotypes, where certain characteristics (almost always negative) are exaggerated and generalized as if all members of that group were stamped from the same mold.  These intergroup relationships are characterized by a hierarchy of power, and intergroup communication takes place in a competitive context, where the strongest is most likely to prevail.

Dialogue is a radically different way of communicating.  Its purpose is to better understand the “other” so that mutual respect and cooperation can become the bases for intergroup relations.  Mutual respect implies recognition of the value of diversity, where religious and cultural differences are accepted as part of a rich and varied human tapestry.  Dialogue is a conversation among equals, and power is not an acceptable aspect of the relationship.  For those who have been accustomed to prevailing through customary power relationships, this environment can be unsettling and uncomfortable.

Interreligious Dialogue

Applied to interreligious activity, dialogue offers an alternative to proselytization and conversion.  These formerly characteristic approaches stem from a sense that one’s own religious orientation is either the only correct view, or is at least the best among all others.  The contrast between attitudes toward interreligious relationships has been helpfully identified by British theologian Alan Race.  As recently described from a Christian point of view by John Hick, “Religious exclusivism, understood in terms of salvation, is the claim that only those who follow one particular path (one’s own, needless to say) can be saved.”1   Inclusivism, on the other hand, “is the claim that salvation consists in being accepted and forgiven by God because of the atoning death of Christ.  However the benefits of Christ’s death are not confined to Christians but are on the contrary available in principle to all human beings, of any or no religion.  Thus everyone who is saved is saved by Christ, whether they know it or not.  Salvation is exclusively Christian salvation, but non-Christians are included within the sphere of Christian salvation: hence the term ‘inclusivism’.”2

Hick admits that he has described the inclusivist position, in both its milder and its stronger forms, as still basically imperialist, with the implication that it is arbitrarily and unjustifiably so.  But of course it only looks this way to Christians who have encountered people of other faiths and have discovered through their own experience that those others are in general no less loving and compassionate and generous, no less truthful, no less honest and honourable, no less creative and interesting, no less unselfish and devoted to their own manifestation of the Ultimate, than are Christians in general.  If we have met people of other faiths to any considerable extent, and particularly if we have been fortunate enough to meet outstanding representatives of those other faiths, we have discovered that the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, compassion, generosity, and so on – are present (and also absent) to about the same extent, within the other great traditions as within our own.  Now if this is indeed the case, if this is the religious reality, why insist on describing this situation in exclusively Christian terms?  Why insist that in some completely incomprehensible way the salvific self-transcendence, was dependent upon the death of Jesus some five hundred years later?  Why is it necessary to make such an arbitrary and implausible claim?  Only, I suggest, because one cannot abandon the idea that one’s own religion must be uniquely superior to all others?  And yet by the test of its fruits, it is not.  So why not adjust our theology to fit the religious realities?

If you find this suggestion appealing you are moving out of inclusivism into pluralism.  Of course the word “pluralism” can simply mean the fact of religious plurality.  But it has come to be used to name a particular understanding of this plurality, namely that there are a number of different authentic contexts of salvation/liberation.3

While Hick has admirably articulated these concepts from a Christian perspective, you can see that attitudes of exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism can be held within the context of any religious tradition, and that salvation is not necessarily the only criterion by which others are judged.  In fact, it is important to note that each tradition itself is not inherently exclusive, inclusive, or pluralistic in its outlook, but rather these are attitudes toward other traditions that are adopted by individuals or sub-groups of adherents who interpret their tradition in one of these ways.

Naturally, dialogue can be seriously affected by the attitudes which participants bring to the table.  Some typical approaches might be described as follows:

1.  SEPARATE AND NOT EQUAL
“I am engaged with people from other religions so that I can know them better in order to more effectively convince them of the superiority of my own beliefs.”

2.  SEPARATE BUT EQUAL
“I tolerate people from other religions because we all share the same world and they have as much right to be here as I have.”

3.  TOGETHER
“People from other traditions, and also those who do not identify with any tradition, are all members of a single human family.  Differences in belief or non-belief do not change this basic truth.”

Proselytism

Proselytism can have both positive and negative aspects, depending on how it is defined and practiced.  While adherents of every faith tradition can be expected to speak willingly and enthusiastically about their beliefs, this enthusiasm, combined with some of the attitudes described above, can lead to demeaning other faiths, beliefs and individuals.  In 1984, the Arizona Regional Board of the National Conference of Christians and Jews issued the following statement in response to a particular problem it had encountered.

The NCCJ accepts without reservation the legal right of any religious group to engage in proselytizing activities.  We have little quarrel with the kind of low-key, highly personalized proselytizing programs engaged in daily by numerous religious groups.  In fact, we note that wherever such activities are prohibited by governments, tyranny results and a free society is lost.  We would not wish to live in a nation which imposes sanctions on religious activity of any kind.

We do question, however, those types of proselytizing activities which utilize fraud or deception, e.g., numerous instances have been reported to us of persons posing as Jews, in order to gain entrée in order to seek the conversion of Jews to Christianity.  We deplore such tactics.

Neither do we believe that it serves the best interest of community good will for any group to attach the central faith, beliefs, doctrines, or validity of any other religious group.  Religious belief is of vital importance to many Americans.  It must be recognized that very deep feelings and emotions are stirred when the most important concepts, traditions, personalities and institutions of any religious group are alleged to be based on falsehood.  Such frontal assaults promote community divisions and cause persons to be deeply hurt.

We recognize as a positive value the right of any religious group to assert their belief in the absolute truth of their own religious beliefs and practices.  However, this basic right also suggests the necessity for tolerance toward others who may hold similar views about their own particular beliefs and customs.

Another very useful statement of policy with regard to proselytism has been developed by the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, D.C.  Approved by the Executive Board of the Interfaith Conference in 1987, the statement reads as follows:

One of the founding principles of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington is the respect and legitimacy accorded to each of the faith communities that make up the Interfaith Conference (IFC).  Our ability to sit together, to dialogue and to cooperate in the enterprise of improving the quality of life for all in our area takes place even as we recognize that we adhere to different faith traditions.

Every faith tradition has a particular vision of the Divine Truth which it feels is unique.  Some faith communities feel that it is part of their mission to share that Truth with others, not of that tradition.  We do support the right of all religions to share their message in the spirit of good will.  It is inappropriate, however, for one faith group openly to demean or disparage the philosophies or practices of another faith group as part of its proselytizing.  Proselytism which does not respect human freedom is carefully to be avoided.  Proselytism must be done with a sense of humility and a respect for others.

It is not for the IFC to pass judgment on the legitimacy of groups who rally around a particular ideology or theology.  There are people who draw spiritual sustenance from religious groups that span the spectrum from radical humanism to the cult of personality.  We do, however, feel compelled to speak out when a religious group promotes or sanctions activities that are harmful to the spirit of interreligious respect and tolerance.  We condemn proselytizing efforts which delegitimize the faith tradition of the person whose conversion is being sought.  Such tactics go beyond the bounds of appropriate and ethically based religious outreach.

Examples of such practices are those that are common among groups that have adopted the label of Hebrew Christianity, Messianic Judaism or Jews for Jesus.  These groups specifically target Jews for conversion to their version of Christianity, making the claim that in accepting Jesus as the savior/messiah, a Jew “fulfills” his/her faith.  Furthermore, by celebrating Jewish festivals, worshipping on the Jewish Sabbath, appropriating Jewish symbols, rituals and prayers in their churches and, sometimes, even calling their leaders “Rabbi,” they seek to win over, often by deception, many Jews who are sincerely looking for a path back to their ancestral heritage.

Deceptive proselytizing efforts are practiced on the most vulnerable of populations – residents of hospitals and old age homes, confused youth, college students away from home.  These proselytizing techniques are tantamount to coerced conversions and should be condemned.

America has been largely free of the religious rivalries that scarred the life of Europe for centuries.  Consequently, we, the leaders of the Islamic, Jewish, Mormon, Protestant and Roman Catholic faith communities in the greater Washington area, under the aegis of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, urge all religious denominations and sects to respect the principles of religious pluralism as the foundation of a society that has the greatest chance of fostering intergroup understanding and cooperation.

Ground Rules for Dialogue

The following material has been adapted from what has become a classic set of guidelines for dialogue developed by Leonard Swidler:4

Dialogue is a conversation on a common subject between two or more persons with differing views, the primary purpose of which is for each participant to learn from the other so that he or she can change or grow.  The following are some basic ground rules or “commandments,” of interreligious dialogue that must be observed if dialogue is actually to take place.  These are not theoretical rules, or commandments given from “on high,” but ones that have been learned from hard experience.

FIRST COMMANDMENT:  The primary purpose of dialogue is to change and grow in the perception and understanding of reality and then to act accordingly.  Minimally, the very fact that I learn that my dialogue partner believes “this” rather than “that” proportionally changes my attitude toward her or him; and a change in my attitude is a significant change in me.  We enter into dialogue so that we can learn, change, and grow, not so we can force change on the other, as one hopes to do in debate – a hope realized in inverse proportion to the frequency and ferocity with which debate is entered into.  On the other hand, because in dialogue each partner comes with the intention of learning and changing her or himself, one’s partner in fact will also change.  Thus the goal of debate, and much more, is accomplished far more effectively by dialogue.

SECOND COMMANDMENT:  Interreligious dialogue must be a two-sided project – within each religious community and between religious communities.  Because of the “corporate” nature of interreligious dialogue, and since the primary goal of dialogue is that each partner learn and change her or himself, it is also necessary that each participant enter into dialogue not only with her or his partner across the faith line – the Lutheran with the Anglican, for example, but also with her or his coreligionists, with her or his fellow Lutherans, to share with them the fruits of the interreligious dialogue.  Only thus can the whole community eventually learn and change, moving toward an ever more perceptive insight into reality.

THIRD COMMANDMENT:  Each participant must come to the dialogue with complete honesty and sincerity.  It should be made clear in what direction the major and minor thrusts of the tradition move, what the future shifts might be, and, if necessary, where the participant has difficulties with her or his own tradition.  No false fronts have any place in dialogue.

Conversely – each participant must assume a similar complete honesty and sincerity in the other partners.  Not only will the absence of sincerity prevent dialogue from happening, but the absence of the assumption of the partner’s sincerity will do so as well.  In brief:  no trust, no dialogue.

FOURTH COMMANDMENT:  In interreligious dialogue we must not compare our ideals with our partner’s practice, but rather our ideals with our partner’s ideals, our practice with our partner’s practice.

FIFTH COMMANDMENT:  Each participant must define her or himself.  Only the Jew, for example, can define what it means to be a Jew.  The rest can only describe what it looks life from the outside.  Moreover, because dialogue is a dynamic medium, as each participant learns, s/he will change and hence continually deepen, expand, and modify her or his self-definition as a Jew – being careful to remain in constant dialogue with fellow Jews.  Thus it is mandatory that each dialogue partner define what it means to be an authentic member of her or his own tradition.

Conversely – the one interpreted must be able to recognize her or himself in the interpretation.  This is the golden rule of interreligious hermeneutics, as has been often reiterated by the “apostle of interreligious dialogue,” Raimundo Panikkar.  For the sake of understanding, each dialogue participant will naturally attempt to express for her or himself what s/he thinks is the meaning of the partner’s statement; the partner must be able to recognize her or himself in that expression.  The advocate of “a world theology,” Wilfred Cantwell Smith, would add that the expression must also be verifiable by critical observers who are not involved.

SIXTH COMMANDMENT:  Each participant must come to the dialogue with no hard-and-fast assumptions as to where the points of disagreement are.  Rather, each partner should not only listen to the other partner with openness and sympathy but also attempt to agree with the dialogue partner as far as is possible while still maintaining integrity with her or his own tradition; where s/he absolutely can agree no further without violating her or his own integrity, precisely there is the real point of disagreement – which most often turns out to be different from the point of disagreement that was falsely assumed ahead of time.

SEVENTH COMMANDMENT:  Dialogue can take place only between equals, or par cum pari as Vatican II put it.  Both must come to learn from each other.  Therefore, if, for example, the Muslim views Hinduism as inferior, or if the Hindu views Islam as inferior, there will be no dialogue.  If authentic interreligious dialogue between Muslims and Hindus is to occur, then both the Muslim and the Hindu must come mainly to learn from each other; only then will it be “equal with equal,” par cum pari.

EIGHTH COMMANDMENT:  Dialogue can take place only on the basis of mutual trust.  Although interreligious dialogue must occur with some kind of “corporate” dimension, that is, the participants must be involved as members of a religious community, it is also fundamentally true that it is only persons who can inter into dialogue.  But a dialogue among persons can be built only on personal trust.  Hence it is wise not to tackle the most difficult problems in the beginning, but rather to approach first those issues most likely to provide some common ground, thereby establishing the basis of human trust.  Then, gradually, as this personal trust deepens and expands, the more thorny matters can be undertaken.

Thus, as in learning we move from the known to the unknown, so in dialogue we proceed from commonly held matters – which, given our mutual ignorance resulting from centuries of hostility, will take us quite some time to discover fully – to discuss matters of disagreement.

NINTH COMMANDMENT:  Persons entering into interreligious dialogue must be at least minimally self-critical of both themselves and their own religious traditions.  A lack of such self-criticism implies that one’s own tradition already has all the correct answers.  Such an attitude makes dialogue not only unnecessary, but even impossible, since we enter into dialogue primarily so we can learn – which obviously is impossible if our tradition has never made a misstep, if it has all the right answers.  To be sure, in interreligious dialogue one must stand within a religious tradition with integrity and conviction, but such integrity and conviction must include, not exclude, a healthy self-criticism.  Without it there can be no dialogue – and, indeed, no integrity.

TENTH COMMANDMENT:  Each participant eventually must attempt to experience the partner’s religion “from within;” for a religion is not merely something of the head, but also of the spirit, heart, and “whole being,” individual and communal.  John Dunne here speaks of “passing over” into another’s religious experience and then coming back enlightened, broadened, and deepened.

Interreligious dialogue operates in three areas:  the practical, where we collaborate to help humanity; the depth or “spiritual” dimension where we attempt to experience the partner’s religion “from within;” and the cognitive, where we seek understanding and truth.  Interreligious dialogue also has three phases.  In the first phase we unlearn misinformation about each other and begin to know each other as we truly are.  In phase two we begin to discern values in the partner’s tradition and wish to appropriate them into our own tradition.  For example, in the Buddhist-Christian dialogue Christians might learn a greater appreciation of the meditative tradition, and Buddhists might learn a greater appreciation of the prophetic, social justice tradition – both values traditionally strongly, though not exclusively, associated with the other’s community.  If we are serious, persistent, and sensitive enough in the dialogue, we may at times enter into phase three.  Here we together begin to explore new areas of reality, of meaning, and of truth, of which neither of us had even been aware before.  We are brought face to face with this new, as-yet-unknown-to-us dimension of reality only because of questions, insight, probings produced in the dialogue.  We may thus dare to say that patiently pursued dialogue can become an instrument of new “re-velation,” a further “un-veiling” of reality – on which we must then act.

Planning for Dialogue

We spoke earlier of the historic problem of power relationships between majority and minority populations.  When representatives of different religious groups come to the table they bring these relationships with them.  As was stated before, power relationships are an obstacle to dialogue.  Most importantly, the way in which a dialogue is initially approached can either reinforce or overcome this obstacle.

It is often the majority religion that agrees to dialogue with the minority, sometimes as a response to stated grievances or concerns.  But in doing so the power relationship can become manifest through several symptoms:

A condescending attitude is displayed by majority representatives toward the minority.
The structure of the dialogue is planned by the majority and announced to the minority.
The agenda of the dialogue is planned by the majority and announced to the minority.
Numerical representation in the dialogue is skewed.
As a result of these inequities, members of the minority group may refuse to dialogue under such conditions, a response that can be puzzling to the majority.  Why do they refuse the hand of friendship that we’ve proffered?  There are several solutions:

No matter what political, social or economic inequalities may prevail, the partners in an interreligious dialogue must be viewed by all as equals.
Planning for the dialogue should include all groups that are expected to participate.
Representation should be as numerically equal as possible.
It might be better for a group other than the majority to host the dialogue.
Bi-lateral or Multi-lateral?

This is a very important question.  Bi-lateral dialogues are safer, since each group is faced with only one alternative set of perceptions.  Historic tensions between traditions are significant and must be addressed.  This can be extremely complex with more than two groups.  It is sometimes best to begin the dialogue process as a bi-lateral, or series of bi-lateral meetings.  When the participants feel comfortable with the prospect of three or more traditions being represented at the same time, a multi-lateral experience can be attempted.  One way to make the transition is the gradual expansion of an initial bi-lateral dialogue group.

The Process Over Time

When representatives of different religious traditions get together for the first time their strongest desire may be to have their concerns heard.  It is entirely possible that they have come only to speak, and not to listen.  They may have been waiting a long time for an opportunity to be heard.  Two or more groups engaging in such behavior during a meeting can create a chaotic atmosphere.  One colleague calls this “playing tapes at each other.”
Needless to say such behavior feels unproductive, but it is necessary to allow everyone a reasonable amount of time to have their say.  At that point an appeal can be made for mutual listening and openness.  The transition to a true desire to hear and understand the other marks the beginnings of trust and the possibility for broader and deeper discussion.

Trust is the essential ingredient, and it manifests itself as participants begin to see each other as human beings, as individuals, as “faces rather than positions.”  Some dialogue groups share a meal together before each dialogue session.  “First eat, then meet” is a good way to build personal relationships that carry over into the discussion.  True friendships emerge, and ancient religious barriers are often transcended.

Topic for discussion should be carefully chosen, again with full participation in the planning by all or a representative segment of the participants.  There are some topics that lend themselves to agreement, and these should be addressed early in the process.  Others clearly lead to disagreement, and should be tackled only when the group feels ready for the possibility of have to “agree to disagree” while remaining friends.

Policies, Good Works and Public Statements

The essential task of an interreligious dialogue group is to develop personal relationships and to explore concepts from the perspective of different religious traditions.  It is basically a personal and intellectual process.  Some members of the group may bring requests for advocacy on political issues that can destroy the group’s cohesiveness, since not all members will necessarily agree with the position taken.  It might be wise, particularly in the early stages of a dialogue group’s existence, to maintain a limited focus on discussion rather than advocacy or action.  There may be, however, a shared desire on the part of the group to develop some interfaith activities that benefit the surrounding community.  Such activities, if carefully planned and executed, can build even further trust and friendship among the participants.  In come communities, interfaith associations have made public statements to calm populations in the wake of potentially divisive events.  All such interventions should be carefully considered and approved in advance by the entire group.

Interfaith Worship or Celebration

Inevitably the possibility of different traditions worshipping together is suggested, and this process has been tried in many different ways.  In the United States, the holiday of Thanksgiving provides a particularly good opportunity for interfaith worship or celebration, since giving thanks in some way is a phenomenon common to all religious traditions.

There are some concerns, however, to be addressed when interfaith worship is approached.  Observances that dilute worship experiences down to the “lowest common denominator” are offensive to many people for whom tradition has strong meaning.  They are disturbed when an attempt is made to design worship that expresses none of the traditional expressions familiar to them.  A more successful approach to interfaith worship or celebration uses authentic traditional forms in a multi-faith setting.  Readings, chants, music, dance, visual arts, and other representations are combined to create an experience of the many forms of worship found in our religiously pluralistic culture.  Silence, too, is a unifying element in which each individual worshipper can utilize the moment to express devotions in her or his own way.

One cannot overestimate the desirability of authenticity in traditional forms, and the beauty that emanates when original languages, music and text are combined.  A caution is needed here, too.  Each tradition contains considerable diversity within itself, and the exercise of finding commonality in expression is one that has to be applied by the members of diverse bodies within traditions when planning an interfaith service of worship or celebration.

[1] John Hick, “The Pluralist Case: a Christian in the Midst of Eastern Faiths” in World Faiths Encounter, Number 6, November 1993. London, England.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Leonard Swidler, “The Dialogue Decalogue: Ground Rules for Interreligious, Interideological Dialogue” in Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 20:1, Winter 1983.

 

 


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