HOW CAN DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY BE AN INSTRUMENT IN PROMOTING INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE THROUGH PROMOTING SOCIAL CHARITY?
Sr. Margaret Alvares, DC[*]
Throw your mantle of stars over us all, But cover most gently the poor the lost and lonely. Those whom the inn has always turned away. – Bonnie Thruston
Each religion at a particular time with different cultures is like different chapters of the book of the religion of God. All the prophets of God who have appeared upon our earth from time to time have one purpose to give people the information that God is ONE persons are ONE and all prophets are ONE. The maturing of human beings, with beings with respect for one another makes the unity that the prophets spoke about.
We need to reflect in the different cultures to become aware of and to respond to the religious traditions of the people. Pope John Paul II in “Redemtoris Mission” said thT there is a vast field which lies open to dialogue which can assume many forms and expressions. Simple Christians who do not have high theological formation can live with respect and openness with their neighbors share their joys their cries and sufferings. In this way they can evangelize through the witness of life living the gospel values.
As Daughters of Charity our charism is service of all persons who are in any kind of need. No misery or suffering must be foreign to us says our constitutions. We do not eveangelize in the way our CM brothers do. They were founded to evangelize the poor directly to see that they grow spiritually as good Christians.
The Daughters of Charity on the other hand were born to care for the sick and suffering the ignorant the unloved the rejected of the society, and this was to be done with the beautiful virtues Vincent and Louis gave us:compassion mildness cordiality respect and devotion. In this service we come across many poor persons belonging to different religions and it is often in these times that we are able to evangelize them. They come to know the compassionate God we serve the loving God who cares for the sick the unloved those down trodden those deprived of their human rights those robbed of their basic needs through injustice and corruption. They need to experience the love and mercy of God through our service to them.
When we feed the hungry care for the miserable and marginalized offer forgiveness become the voice of the voiceless and appreciate the humanity of another persons with attention devotion and reverence when we allow our hearts to be touched by the poor we meet along the way, we bring the creative love and glory of our God in to the hearts and lives of those we serve no matter what faith they belong to. We pray with them in their griefs their joys and we become channels of grace in this world for them.
Christians are called to share life simply living together in harmony or working for conciliation after conflicts. This involves helping the weakest and neediest being the voice of the voiceless in relation with the poor and the victims of injustice. We also share the reason of our living as Christian brethren and this makes us enter into dialogue with them.
Together with people of other faiths when we go village visiting we share and listen to what it means to be a Christian hindu or muslim. We reflect together on how a good and loving God whom we call Father could allow so much wrong doing and inequality in our world. We share our sufferings and try to see what we have learnt from our friends in regard to sickness death and failures. We share our forgiveness and how we can arrive at the impossible task of actuality forgiving each other. Unless there is a genuine relationship working together for the common good and creating friendships we cannot transmit our faith to others. We need to reach out in sympathy warmth and caring love then only will our relationship be deep and lasting. Mother Theresa of Kalkata said” Evangelization is simply giving the Christ we have in our hearts to those who do not have him”. Informal meetings with parents of children students patients who come to our health centres even those we encounter in trains buses railway stations is the best way to evangelize.
We are often reminded that as Daughters we cannot wander too far from our obligation as Christians to evangelize. It is through our way of life and our service that we can fulfill this command of the Lord.
The youth are the initiatives of new things in every society hence they need to be affirmed and recognized. The old feel that the great things they did in their younger days which were much praised and appreciated are all too soon forgotten. They need our sympathy in their feelings of rejection and loneliness. The sick need us too. When often we pray for healing a change of heart takes place and the person is totally transformed by the Divine Healer.
God’s word touches each one in a different way and at a different time. We can make use of Bible quotations put up on notices boards on the compound wall picture posters printed leaflets dance dramas, gospel songs, Bible stories, etc. to carry God’s word to those who do not know him.
Evangelization invites us to recognize both our weakness and our strengths our limitations and possibilities. The life of Christ his love his gracious words his help his healings his acceptance of sufferings the way he underwent the passion and death forgiving his persecutors is enough matter to use for evangelization. We must remember that it is not only we who evangelize the poor and others with power and help of God but those who give ear to our words evangelize us also. It is something mutual. We share Christ with them but they often tell us indirectly that the Christ we give is the same they have unconsciously cherished in their hearts.
[*] Sr. Margaret Alvarez, DC is a Daughter of Charity who teaches her young sisters of the Northern Province and experiences various apostolates to the vulnerable and marginalized in different places in her province.