Monday, November 22, 2010

Dialogue With Other Religions Is Mandated by Love

Korea's reputation as a country with a good record of interreligious harmony is deserved, but recently there was an incident at a Buddhist temple where some Protestant young people did their best to tarnish this reputation. They entered the temple and held their service there, asking God to destroy the temple, which they considered a place of idol worship.  They made a  video clip which was available on the Internet.  It was not only an embarrassment to all believers but to the majority of Protestants. This prompted an editorial in the Peace Weekly and articles in the Catholic press.

The Protestant minister responsible  did go to the temple with the young people to apologize to the monks; the apology was accepted but this did not stop the many blogs that responded to this senseless act. The Buddhist authorities responded with a simple statement, lamenting the action:  "What was done threatens our pluralistic society and our peaceful coexistence. It shows not only that a conflict exists between Buddhism and Protestantism but that it a problem for our society."

Two articles in the Catholic Weekly make clear the importance of  understanding and  respecting another's religion. History gives us many examples of the harm done by self-righteousness and cliquishness. Even in our own times, terrorism and wars are on the rise, instigated by our failure to understand those different from ourselves and to accept this difference.

We as Catholics have the teaching of the Church that makes dialogue between religions imperative for peace. We must make a greater effort to understand and respect those who are different from ourselves, but we must at the same time realize this does not militate against our desire to want others to join us, and we respect the same feeling on the part of others. It must also be understood that we do not look forward to making all religions one.

Catholics see the dialogue between religions as the way to strengthen each religion. Cardinal Francis Arinze was quoted as saying:"Members of the different religions can positively stimulate  each other."  When we see faithful Muslims praying 5 times a day it helps us want to be more faithful in our own prayer life. When we work together with other religions we are working for justice and the progress of society, and also expressing our love for others.

One article observed that for those who do not have a strong foundation in their own religion there is a danger to accept a relativistic view of life: all relgions are the same, they are just different ways of going to God. There is also the eclectic approach of trying to make them into one religion. When a  person does not have a good grasp of his own religious tradition, dialogue is meaningless. 

A Consolata father, a member of the Bishop's Committee for Interreligious dialogue  ends the article by saying "Before Christians begin the dialogue, we have to keep in mind that God is the father of all and that we believe God loves even those who do not believe. Dialogue between religions is putting into practice the love that God has for all.

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