A plea for interreligious dialogue-A A +A
The Living Spirit
Saturday, January 5, 2013
TODAY, January 6, we celebrate the Feast of Three Kings, the three wise men who came from the East to greet the new-born Savior of the world in Bethlehem.
With the Incarnation of his Son, God showed himself not only to the Jewish people but to all other nations of the world, especially the nations of the East, no matter their race or culture.
Our outlook as Christians has become very narrow and Western. We must learn to look at each other and to other nations with different eyes. In this respect, I came across a beautiful poem that says:
You created the continents, O God.
You made people different from each other,
in language and in culture.
Your face, O God
illuminates itself in many different religions.
You bring us all to faith,
but sometimes you leave us also in the dark.
Give us an eye for the other, dear God
and give the world peace
and faith in the future.
The Feast of Epiphany tells us that we must go into dialogue with each other and with other nations and we must learn to look at each other with different eyes. Interreligious dialogue is a must. Islam has the motto: ‘God does not like destruction’ as is stated in the Koran. Hinduism points at the divine with the words: ‘I give life to everything that grows.’
Buddhism in essence says: ‘Let the whole of creation rejoice.’ And Christianity says: ‘Don’t worry and look at the birds in the sky. It is your heavenly Father who feeds them all.’
Let us have a closer look at our neighbors in Asia. Indonesia has 260 million inhabitants, more than 13,000 islands at both sides of the equator. It has many different cultures and religions, 88 percent call themselves Muslims, two percent Hindus and one percent Buddhists. Christians are eight percent, five percent Protestants, three percent Catholics.
Indonesia has for many centuries been a colony of Holland, called the Netherlands East Indies. The founder and first president of Indonesia, Soekarno, chose a government system with five basic principles called the Panca Sila.
The first pillar is: faith in one God. That is why there is freedom of religion for the four major world religions, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity. India has a population of 685 million people, representing many different language and ethnic groups. India is the home of one of the world’s oldest civilizations – dating back more than 3,000 years – and the birthplace of several religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism. India was before also a colony under British rule.
Since becoming independent, India has followed a neutralist policy in world affairs, avoiding alignments with either the Communists or the West. The nation has concentrated on relieving the extreme poverty of the vast majority of its people. About 80 percent of the people of India are Hindus, about 11 percent are Moslems, between two and three percent are Christian, 15 percent of which are so-called Thomas Christians who believe that their church was founded in 52 A.D. by the Apostle Thomas.
And finally, there is Thailand which is a Kingdom. It has a population of more than 44 million and is densely populated. Ninety-five percent of its population is Buddhist. Many of these people are also animists; they believe in spirits, the power of charms and the sacredness of the white elephant.
All other religions in Thailand, including Islam, Christianity, Confucianism and Hinduism, have complete freedom.
Having a closer look at Christianity, we can see that it became divided during the Reformation under Luther and Calvin. In fact, there was a great need for reform within the Catholic Church, where clericalism and sacramentalism had dominated the religion of the people. But the reformed churches never wanted to separate from the main Church. It was the Catholic Church who excommunicated them. It is high time that we get united again as Christians.
St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians (Eph. 4, 12-13) says: “… so let the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. In this way we are all to come to unite in our faith and in one knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Human, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.”
(For your comments, email email@example.com)
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 06, 2013.