INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE AND ITS IMPLICATIONS TO PASTORAL FORMATION
Roland Tuazon, CM[*]
The very enriching reflections, discussions and exchanges during the first week of this conference on inter-religious dialogue surely can impact on the way we go about the task of forming our candidates, especially in the area of apostolate and mission. Within my specific context of formation work in Manila, Philippines, where a predominantly Catholic population has very little contact with peoples of other faith/s, inter-religious dialogue seems to bear no great significance. Our experience of dialogue happens more in ecumenical encounter with other Christian denominations. Yet, believing that similar principles, perspectives and attitudes could operate in both levels of dialogue (ecumenical and inter-religious), I am convinced that further reflections, especially with regard its implications to formation is not at all a futile exercise. Besides, considering that there is a very high possibility for our formands to be sent to other countries of the Asia-Pacific region, like in Thailand, Cambodia, Lebanon, Papua New Guinea, etc., where some of our Filipino Vincentian confreres are already working, it becomes a necessity for us Filipino formators to take the challenge of inter-religious dialogue very seriously. What I mean to do in this very short presentation is to highlight some important insights that came to mind as I was gradually being more deeply ushered into the complex terrain of inter-religious dialogue. I would then spell out what are the concrete implications of these to seminary formation in its different aspects, but giving a more defined focus to the pastoral dimension of formation.
- 2. Wider Vision of Reality
One of the main obstacles to inter-religious dialogue is a myopic vision of reality, a very limited perspective that considers one’s view as the only bearer of truth. The perspective that comes along with ethno-centrism, ecclesio-centrism, parochialism, and particularism traps people in hermeneutic enclosure that prevents them from seeing what is good, true and beautiful in the other. A genuine inter-religious dialogue points to a vision that transcends the limited horizons of our present system of seeing, valuing and living that confines people within the ideological, religious, and philosophical boundaries of our historical institutions. Such dimension of transcendence can be discerned in every religion. In Christianity, we see this in the eschatological vision we call the “Reign of God”. Jesus’ life and work, his parabolic preaching and miraculous wonders, point to this universal vision. It becomes clear then that, for a genuine disciple of Jesus, the real end is not the Church but the “Reign of God” which the Church is called to serve.
The implication of this to formation is to understand that the ultimate goal of seminary formation is to prepare our candidates to be captivated by this eschatological vision of Jesus. Formation should be able to prepare the candidates to participate in most dynamic and creative ways in the building of God’s Reign in our midst in the here and now as anticipation of the fullness of life that is still yet to come. Characterized with the manifestation of God’s graciousness in our life in the world through our experience of genuine peace, love, justice, freedom, equality and reconciliation, this eschatological vision can be commonly shared with the different religious traditions. Having this vision in mind, pastoral practices that bring about the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God come before and go beyond the task of cultic sacramentalization (baptism, church wedding, confession, etc.), creedal dogmatization (catechism, etc.), and conservative moralization (canon law, church laws, etc.). The candidates should be trained to see beyond all these present institutions and expressions of our worship (cult), beliefs (creed) and mores (code) and develop sensitivity and discernment to the on-going ‘kairotic’ manifestation or in-breaking of God’s kingdom in and through the different signs of the times. As seminarians are trained to discern God’s presence in the said institutions, they should be able to also and more so discern God’s purpose, movement, and action beyond those ‘churchy’ realities. In a very special way, the mediation of the poor, in their epistemic privilege, in the in-breaking of the ‘Kingdom of God’, calls for a life of direct contact with and service of the poor and the excluded of society. Immersion program, where our formands could have a sustained contact with the poor whom they serve, is an indispensable part of the pastoral formation of our candidates. The reality of poverty and dehumanization of the poor and of the excluded in society puts into question the candidates’ ways of thinking, valuing, and living and leads them to a genuine experience of conversion.
- 3. Reenvisioning Mission
The refocusing of our vision to the ‘Kingdom of God’ gives way to a fresh look at how we understand our mission and apostolate.
[*] Roland Tuazon CM is professor of moral theology at St. Vincent School of Theology, Quezon City, Philippines.