INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE TO PASTORAL FORMATION INDIAN CONTEXT

Aplinar Senapati, CM[1]

Introduction

India is a home to all major religions of the world-those born here: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, and those brought in from outside by missionaries, colonial rulers, invaders and immigrants: Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism.

All these religions are rooted in the soil of India and try to provide meaning and guidance to the millions. Secularism and pluralism are the two main aspects that contribute to religio-cultural harmony in India.

The experiences of the past 60 years of Democracy proves that in India Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and all others share a common bond of Indianness and find secular democracy as a viable institution that can rein in religious-political fundamentalism and hold the nation together.

Yet there are occasions when religious and political conflicts show their ugly face on the Indian scene especially the resent incident in Kandhamal, Orissa, India.

“Secular” in Asia and Africa is a positive word, in the context of religious fundamentalism and intolerance. It means that all religions are equally respected and the society/government is not associated with any religion. A secular government is desirable and favorable to Afro-Asian countries.

Problems of IRD

In a spirit of sincerity reverence for persons and a certain trust, in order to achieve either a greater grasp of truth or more human relationships. Dialogue is of greater importance and is more difficult when it takes place between people of different and even sometimes opposing opinions. They try to expel each others prejudiced opinions to increase as much as  they are able consensus between themselves their objectives may be simple interrelationships between men, the search for truth, or cooperation in some activity. India is a land of many religions, cultures and languages. It is a biggest democratic and secular country. In spite of our excellent contributions in the fields of education, health care and service towards to poor we are only 2.43%.  Our social developmental works looked with suspicion. The Hindus consider them as for conversion. Therefore the inter-religious dialogue becomes very difficult. We are very much interested to have dialogue with other faiths when we in troubles but in normal times we forget about it.

We are not encouraged to have ecumenical dialogue with our non-catholic brethren. Our confreres have only minimum knowledge about the teachings of other religions, Church documents, other denominations etc. We always remain aloof with them and we do not have good relation with the people of other faiths. All these make difficult for our pastoral life and dialogue

Secularization Breeds Fundamentalism

Modernity assumed that secularization would gather strength and remain forever without any challenges. Nevertheless, together with secularization a strong counter movement took place in the religious scenario that led to the development of religious fundamentalism. There can be many reasons attributed to this development, but the main reason that can be discerned is the inadequacy of modernity in dealing with the spiritual needs of the people. The common people are finding that modernity does not provide and atmosphere in which a human person can flourish “the significance of Interreligious Dialogue.”

In the present multy-religious and democratic societies, the believers of different religions are called to live and grow in dialogue with persons of other religions. To live a life of religion is to live it inter-religiously, i.e., to accept and adopt what is good in other religions. Believers of different religions should be open to the faith of other religions. Hans Kung states: “There can be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions. There can be no peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions.”  Inter-religious dialogue is a challenge and a historical mandate for the believers today. The Christians in India, as followers for Christ, must offer forgiveness and reconciliation. In a spirit of sincerity reverence for persons and a certain trust, in order to achieve either a greater grasp of truth or more human relationships.

Dialogue is of greater importance and is more difficult when it takes place between people of different and even sometimes opposing opinions. They try to expel each others prejudiced opinions to increase as much as They are able consensus between themselves their objectives may be simple Interrelationships between men, the search for truth, or cooperation in some Activity. India is a land of many religions, cultures and languages. It is a biggest democratic and secular country. In spite of our excellent contributions in the fields of education, health care and service towards to Poor we are only 2.43%. Our social developmental works looked with Suspicion. The Hindus consider them as for conversion. Therefore the interreligious dialogue becomes very difficult. We are very much interested to Have dialogue with other faiths when we in troubles but in normal times we forget about it. We are not encouraged to have ecumenical dialogue with our non-catholic brethren. Our confreres have only minimum knowledge about the teachings of other religions, Church documents, other denominations etc. We always remain aloof with them and we do not have good relation with the people of other faiths. All these make difficult for our pastoral life and dialogue.

We must invite the proponents of Hindutva for a serious and open dialogue. All efforts must be made by people of all religions to promote inter-religious dialogue among the masses. An authentic dialogue can bring about a true fraternal understanding in India between the Hindus and the minorities. Inter-religious councils must be formed for settling disputes among people of religions and promoting inter-religious co-operation. First of all it must be done not only at the PARISH, Diocese and then at the national level to eliminate misunderstanding hatred and discord among followers of different religions.

So rooted in once own faith and traditions, the Christians should be open to the spiritual riches of other religions aiming at the mutual understanding and harmony. They should realize the fact that the followers belonging to different religions are “co-pilgrims guiding one another towards the one transcendent goal” (Pope John Paul II, Assisi, 1986). It implies that they have to avoid at all levels any tendency to become a monolithic and monocultural institution. “Inter-religious dialogue helps believers to say “no” to fundamentalism, fanaticism, extremism and say “yes” to the liberative values of each faith, to the basic values of the human person and community, and to their protection and promotion.” Dialogue leads to communion among individuals and of individuals with God. It can do this only in humility, dialogue and mutual respect, without laying claim to a superior insight or authority.

In a world filled with violence, communal conflicts and ethnic antagonism, the call of the church is to be an agent of peace and prosperity.

Means

  1. We need to deepen our commitment to the nation to establish the integral liberation of every individual irrespective of caste, creed, sex and religion.
  2. We need to work in a special way for the liberation, empowerment and wholeness of the people especially of the poor, the Dalits, the tribal people, and women and for the promotion of ecological balance.
  3. Commitment to Gospel values to the poor, oppressed, weak, and marginalized and the outcaste in the struggle for integral liberation and empowerment.
  4. The spirit of discernment is required for IRD because IRD is very much a theological/pastoral issue. The indigenous religions claim greater role in the process of nation building. This paves the way for unhealthy alliances of politics and religions. Jama-at-Islami, Hindutva and Christian Sects are some examples of such fallout in Islam, Hinduism and Christianity. It is surprising that most of these groups define themselves against secularism and they strive to put up theocratic states. A Christian response to the phenomenon of religious terrorism and practical measures to resist extremism will be also in order. As a prerequisite, we begin with explaining the concepts of fundamentalism, fanaticism and communalism, the ideologies which manipulate religious sentiments of people for political ends.
  5. Cleansing of the Temple by referring to the purification of the temple John refers that the Messianic prophecies are accomplished in Christ. We are to purify our intension and motivation.
  6. Teach the noble values of all religions Ignorance about other religions is a Great hurdle in the path of communal harmony and pastoral formation. All Religions nurture values like truth, love, non-violance, compassion peace service practice of equality fraternity justice. The formees are to be formed in these ideals.
  7. Among the adults the interreligious amity can be fostered through exchange of at various levels. Through common prayers, contemplations discussions, and celebrations we can know about the noble values akin to each religion.
  8. Every person can contribute to building unity by small gestures of daily life. Visiting the hospitals, sharing meals with neighbors on festivals would cause the decline of communal feelings.
  9. Virtue of Interdependence. The virtue of interdependence is the little way to transcend the barrier of caste, creed, race and language. An atmosphere of understanding one another as human beings with same needs, aspirations and obligations’ is to be created. Every religion has something unique to contribute for the welfare of the world.

10.  From extremist tendencies. Studies. Show that the sectarian groups find the sympathizers in a large numbers among the unemployed youth. Therefore to curtail the growth of fundamentalism one has to definitely work for employment and development.

11.  Counter cultural and political formation. During the last two decades secular minded individuals used to expose the hidden agenda and strategies and communal forces and create public opinion against them using art forms-paintings music, street plays is an efficient means to oppose the communal forces.

12.  Common feast celebration like Independence day or national festivals etc

Conclusion

Today man suffers from a type of religious neurosis. The best medicine to heal the poisoned psyche of humanity is the spirituality of religions advocating values of pluralism, universality, compassion and love. We are born and trained in certain traditions of religion. Bur we are not supposed to transfer the absoluteness, which belong to the divine reality, to its historical formulations. We must able to hold our particular formulations as valid without denying the other forms. This is the only attitude consistent with faith in a universal God. They try to expel each others prejudiced opinions to increase as much as  they are able consensus between themselves their objectives may be simple interrelationships between men, the search for truth, or cooperation in some activity.


[1] Fr. Aplinar Senapati CM is the director of the novitiate of the CM of the Northern Province of India and is member of the Commission of the Vincentian Charism and Culture.

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