Interreligious Hospitality: The Fulfillment of Dialogue (Monastic Interreligious Dialogue)

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Back Matter Pages About this book Introduction This book calls attention to ways of fostering dialogue among members of different religious traditions in an era of cultural and religious pluralism. To achieve this, the author analyzes the results of an ethnographic study of Ihievbe, a town in Midwestern Nigeria that is religiously pluralistic. Emphasis is given to hospitality and friendship—two key relational, cultural, philosophical, and theological virtues—as tools for constructing healthy interreligious dialogue that is relevant for our times.

A critical study is done on the importance of these two dialogical virtues in the religious expressions of Roman Catholicism, Islam, and Ihievbe Traditional Religion.

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Preference for ethnographic studies is based on stressing the relevance of context in articulating useful practices of interreligious dialogue. Finally, the book articulates ways the fruits of interreligious dialogue can be celebrated in the liturgical rituals of each religion, especially the three religions that are addressed here. Ihievbe interreligious dialogue african catholicism islam in africa the other. Then one could think of a body such as Amnesty International whose present Secretary General is a Muslim.

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Such "neutral" bodies can often provide a better opportunity for interreligious cooperation in this field, since they are not dominated by any one religion. The passage from Dialogue and Proclamation continues:. There is need also to join together in trying to solve the great problems facing society and the world, as well as in education for justice and peace ibid.

Unitarians, Jews and Buddhists felt that they were faced with the same problems, and that they would benefit by trying to tackle them together rather than separately. The first world conference was held in Kyoto in , and the decision was taken to establish a permanent organization. One of the distinctive features of WCRP is that it brings into play the respective religious motivations for commitment to justice and peace.

More recently the movement has become more action-oriented. Standing committees are being formed for questions of development, for environmental concerns, for the rights of children, for action on poverty. Whether this will pay lasting dividends has yet to be seen, but already some achievements can be pointed to.


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WCRP has contributed to the setting up of an interreligious council in Sarajevo. It has set up a similar council in Sierra Leone which has become engaged in the rehabilitation of child soldiers. It could be said that the Council does not itself engage in the dialogue of action, but it certainly is committed to reflection with other believers on this form of dialogue. For instance, a Catholic-Muslim Liaison Committee was established in between our Council and representatives of International Islamic Organizations.

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The contacts made during the period prior to the formal agreement to set up the committee rendered possible a joint reflection on the problems raised by the U. Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in Much older than this is the Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee which, naturally has been much concerned with combating anti-Semitism, but also recently issued a statement on the environment. It must not be thought that all the action is taking place at the international level. Work for justice and peace is an integral part of the Church's evangelizing mission. It has to be carried out at all levels.

It forms part of the Church's diakonia. The commitment to education, to medical work, to social action, is not confined to the Church's members. These services are offered to all.


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They will continue to exist in a multi-religious environment, even when the Christians are in the minority. There can of course be different situations. There are those in which the Church is in control. She has her own institutions: schools, universities, hospitals, dispensaries, training centers, and so on. There still has to be much reflection when the pupils, students, patients, staff, belong to another religion or to a variety of religions.

What is to be the ethos of the establishment? How are the followers of other religious traditions to be made to feel at ease?

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Such situations offer many opportunities for serious dialogue. Another type of relationship is created when the Church does not have its own institutions, but members of the Church, either as individuals or as recognized religious bodies, work within already existing structures. These may be under state control or belong to the private sector. A case in point would be Libya, where a request was made to have religious women to work in hospitals. It can happen, in these circumstances, that cooperation is strictly professional and that there is little opportunity for real dialogue.

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Yet in the long run relations of dialogue can be built up, helped by the generous witness of those who are engaged in this work. There are also private initiatives bringing together people of different religions, even though religion may not be the decisive factor for the enterprise.

There are areas of health care or social services where governments find it difficult to meet people's needs. Care of the handicapped is a case in point. This has led, in the countries of the Maghreb for instance, to the formation of private associations, in which Christians are involved alongside Muslims. It is obvious that in these circumstances much dialogue is needed, to determine the aims of the association, to ensure the right spirit, to agree on the financial basis. A great deal of confidence is needed to be able to work harmoniously together.

So the dialogue of action can truly be considered a form of dialogue. Dialogue of discourse. When the word dialogue is mentioned, people immediately think of formal meetings and learned discussions. As has been said above, this is not the only way of engaging in dialogue, yet it does have its importance. The dialogue that takes place in formal exchanges can take many different forms.

As regards the number of religions, the dialogue can be bilateral, such as Christian-Jewish, Christian-Muslim, Christian-Buddhist, or trilateral, Jews, Christians and Muslims together, or multilateral, with people of many different religious traditions taking part.

Each of these types has it own special advantages. Bilateral dialogue can allow greater focus not only on common issues but on divergent elements, seeking greater clarity. The trilateral dialogue is particular in nature, referring to the common Abrahamic heritage, however this may be understood. Multilateral dialogue can sometimes take away the edge of confrontation which can arise in bilateral meetings. Meetings will also differ in the number of participants, going from large congresses to groups that can meet in people's homes.

If the first type allows the "good news" of dialogue to be carried to a larger public, it also runs the danger of becoming theatrical. It is often more possible for serious discussion to take place in smaller groups. A similar reflection could be made concerning the frequency of meetings. Some are unique experiences.

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Others may be occasional happenings, yet others may be regular occurrences with a built-in time schedule. Here again, for progress in mutual understanding a certain continuity is useful. Another difference in these meetings regards the topics addressed. These may be theological, or social issues. Finally, there can be a difference in the quality of participants. The policy may be to work through institutions, thus leaving it to the dialogue partners to choose their own participants.

On the other hand, there may be a preference for issuing direct invitations to persons who are already known. In the first case there is a greater possibility of achieving some kind of representatively. The second option may offer a greater guarantee of fruitful dialogue. If the dialogue of discourse is to succeed, then perhaps certain conditions need to be fulfilled. This preparation should be serious, but there should not be too great a rigidity in the running of the meeting; it is important to leave openings for spontaneous discussion.

Care must be taken to maintain a true dialogical spirit; this means not only avoiding polemics, but also not restricting the exchanges to a purely academic approach. It may be necessary to accept that there will be a certain amount of repetition, if not in the same meeting, at least from one meeting to another. New people are often brought into the dialogues, and this is a good thing, but it also means that the fundamentals have to be explained over and over again. Very often meetings wish to end up with a common statement.

Here it is elementary wisdom not to want to say everything so that at least something can be said together. Dialogue of religious experience. To some extent this can be a specific form of the dialogue of discourse, when the topics for discussion are selected from the realm of spirituality. One example of this is the Christian-Muslim seminar on holiness held at the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies in In this meeting papers were read on the concept of holiness in Christianity and Islam, the teaching on the paths to holiness, and also concrete examples of holy people.

A theme having been chosen in advance, it was explored in the Christian and Islamic traditions, and time was given to sharing on this theme.

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Yet these encounters were particular in that a considerable time was given over to prayer. It is the being with one another in prayer, or at one another's worship, that distinguishes the dialogue of religious experience. It is a type of dialogue that is being developed among monastics. While the American group has developed a program of hospitality, welcoming in particular monks and nuns from the Tibetan tradition, in Europe more contact has been made with the Zen tradition of Japan, and various spiritual exchanges have taken place.

These include periods of two to three weeks in a monastery of another tradition, trying to live as fully as possible the life of the monks or nuns, developing a dialogue without words. Yet the experience usually ends with a symposium in which observations can be communicated and questions raised. This type of dialogue has flourished mainly between Buddhists and Christians. It has been more difficult to develop it with other religious traditions. But it should not be thought that the dialogue of religious experience is confined to monastics.

Interreligious prayer can be considered a form of this particular dialogue, and this is a growing phenomenon.