Monday, June 27, 2011
Importance of Interfaith Dialogue
Statistics mean little without interpretation, and yet there is something that is unique about the way Koreans see life and its meaning. Percentage-wise, Christianity has more followers in Korea, except for the Philippines and East Timor, than in other Asian countries. There is a feeling on the part of Koreans to live and let live; they do not like to confront others or inflict pain. Foreigners can see this as somewhat artificial: saying yes when they mean no. The Korean, however, has little difficulty in understanding what is meant.
Shamanism, also a part of the religious background, influencing many other religions, including Christianity, helps to explain the Korean openness to other beliefs, even though most religions have beliefs that can be considered exclusive or absolute or deeply embedded within a culture . The many years of Buddhist and Confucian ascendancy have greatly influenced the culture and the way Koreans see the world, sometimes for good and sometimes for the not so good.
One of the big changes in our understanding of Catholicism since the II Vatican Council is the openness of the Church to other religions and its desire to participate in interfaith dialogue and ecumenical contacts. The Church, realizing that many of the conflicts in the world--in the past and in the present--have had a religious basis, wants to work for a world without conflict and oppression. The Church strongly supports religious freedom; though proposing what she believes is true she does not desire others to believe against their will. The words we hear often today: "She proposes, not imposes."
An example of the efforts of the Korean Church to foster understanding among religions is the 4th annual meeting of religions sponsored by the Korean bishops. On June 23 and 24, the bishops and the apostolic nuncio, with 19 deacons, will be spending time learning about other religions, as they visit with the Orthodox, Anglicans, Buddhists, and Islamists.
The need for such exchanges is felt by many. Others are also doing what they can as individuals, as parishes, and as religious communities to foster understanding and respect for the beliefs of others. Seeing the need, the Korean bishops have increased the formal exchanges to twice a year. A sign to the whole Church of the importance of interfaith dialogue.