Saturday, November 6, 2010

Working for Harmony Among Religions

"Prejudice No, Understanding and Harmony Yes" was the headline in the Catholic Times article on the 14th Religious Cultural Festival held last month in Seoul. The theme was: Let us go together with one heart.  Seven religious groups participated: Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Won Buddhists, Chondogyo, Confucianists, and the Korean traditional religions.

Each religion had a booth where those interested could learn about its teachings. One Catholic said, "it was nice to see the different religions coming together without prejudice and to get to know something about them." There were also artistic expressions of each religion. The Catholics had liturgical displays and information about the Mass and the making of rosary bracelets. There was also dancing, singing and fun things to do. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn about each others' religion. One of the journalists on the opinion page said that Korea was the only country where religions get along harmoniously. That may have been an exaggeration but they do make efforts to get along, for the most part, in a way you do not see  happening in many other countries of the world.

Here in Gyodong the Methodists, who have been in Gyodong for well over a hundred years and have churches in many different villages on the island, have a program preparing  lunches for those over 65 who are poor and living alone. Since the Methodists are the only other religious group besides the Catholics with Churches they asked the Catholics to help with the lunch preparation and we were happy to oblige. Before and after Mass on Fridays our women prepare the lunch boxes which are later distributed by the Methodists. It's a small thing but it is a sign of interreligious cooperation in an area that shows our common love for the poor, with Jesus as our common teacher.

Recently there was an article in the daily paper mentioning that some Protestants were praying for the destruction of Buddhism and demeaning it by what they were saying and doing. The Buddhists have thought it important enough to meet on the issue. This will always be the case when you have groups within groups that feel they have a better understanding of the issues than others. When you have so many different religions and believers, unanimity is impossible; bickering between religions seen from the outside, is difficult to accept and leave many  with sadness. And yet Korea is an example of a country that is working to find harmony between religions.

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