Issue 42, December 2003

This issue of Current Dialogue has a wide-ranging content with contributions from our network, reports from the Office on Interreligious Relations and Dialogue (IRRD) and some of the contributions from a Bossey seminar on hermeneutics. But this issue gives a particular emphasis to Christian-Buddhist dialogue, addressed from a couple of different perspectives. Buddhism and Christianity are very different from each other. There are obvious differences between rebirth and historical uniqueness, between no-self and person, between emptiness and being. Buddhism is, as someone has said, a "religion of the eye," which begins as philosophy and grows into story, and Christianity is a "religion of the ear," which initially takes a narrative form but gives rise to philosophy.

This is a challenge that, in spite of all differences or maybe thanks to the differences, should bring Christians and Buddhists together to learn from each other, to be faced by each other and to discover that the relationship can become a true partnership.

Christian-Buddhist dialogue is a dialogue with several faces, spanning over various diverse and different relationships: exchanges between Buddhist and Christian academics, monastic exchanges between Japanese Buddhist and Catholic monks and nuns (see Katrin Åmell’s contribution on Buddhist praxis in Christianity), dialogues taking into consideration the inroads made by various forms of Buddhism in the West, co-operation on social issues between Buddhists and Christians. "Engaged Buddhists" in Thailand, Rissho Kosei-kai in Japan and the Global Network of Religions for Children, sponsored by the Arigatou Foundation are some partners of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Buddhist-Christian co-operation.

Unfortunately there are also increasing signs of tense relations between Christians and Buddhists in countries in Asia, not least as a consequence of Buddhist experiences of Christian proselytism but also in some parts of Asia as a result of a Buddhist awakening in relation to its own mission in the world.

Inside this issue of Current Dialogue ...

Contextual Paradigms for Interfaith Relations - Douglas Pratt

Seminar on Hermeneutics: Interpreting Scriptures in Pluralist Contexts

  • Introduction to the Seminar - Gosbert T.M. Byamungu
  • Reflections - Aimee Moiso
  • Finding established meanings or God's Hidden Will - Ghelong Thubten Rinchen
  • Reflections on the Convergence of Creation Stories in Hindu, Jewish, Christian and Islamic Faiths - John Ponnusamy
  • Interpreting Sacred Messages in African Traditional Religion - Denis Isizoh
  • Application of Buddhist Praxis in Christianity - Katrin Åmell
  • Communal Harmony - A Societal Perspective: A lecture given at Stanley Samartha Memorial Lecture 2003, Bangalore - C. T. Kurien

    Buddhists, Christians and the Doctrine of Creation - John May

    "No one religion better than the other" : Pluralist Summit

    Christian-Muslim Consultation in Turkey : A personal reflection - Philip Lewis

    Reflections after a Jewish-Christian Dialogue in Temple Emanu-El, New York - Hans Ucko

    A Strife from India to "think together" on Jesus - K.P. Aleaz

    One important task for the WCC and IRRD is to facilitate dialogues between Christians and Theravada Buddhists on how Christian and Buddhist missionary understandings must always be firmly grounded in absolute respect of the other. Living together in justice and peace can only be achieved if the dignity of the other is a concern and priority.

    In mid-December, the WCC was honoured by the visit of the Iranian president Sayyid Mohammad Khatami, who made an appeal for inter-religious dialogue as an alternative to religious fundamentalism and as a source of international peace and stability, in a public lecture. His lecture emphasised as an absolute and vital necessity "the dialogue of civilisations, but also the dialogue between religions, particularly between Islam and Christianity". President Khatami noted that it was precisely during the 2001 UN Year of Dialogue among Civilisations that terrorism showed its "ugliest face" with the "tragic attacks" in the USA. "The future of religion will depend on the abandoning of fanaticism, and on (…) mutual comprehension and openness," he stressed. "No religion can hold claim to absolute Truth (…). Dialogue is the foundation which allows for unity in diversity," he said. The prime minister of Norway, H.E. Kjell Magne Bondevik, and the WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, responded to his presentation.

    The texts of the speeches by Sayyid Mohammad Khatami, Kjell Magne Bondevik and Konrad Raiser are available from our office or on our website.

    Seasons’ Greetings

    Hans Ucko

    Jürgen Micksch

    Abrahamische und Interreligiöse Teams

    Abrahamische und Interreligiöse Teams bemühen sich um eine bessere Verständigung zwischen Menschen unterschiedlicher Religion und den Abbau von Vorurteilen und Ängsten. In Schulen und bei Veranstaltungen werden von den Teams die Positionen der Religionsgemeinschaften zu Fragen des Zusammenlebens dargestellt und zu einer offenen und kritischen Diskussion eingeladen.

    Die Broschüre informiert über diese Initiative und will die Vorbereitung interreligiöser Dialoge und Veranstaltungen erleichtern.

    The Inter-Cultural Council of Germany has established since September 11, 2001 "Abrahamic Teams" where Jews, Christians and Muslims cooperate. They will go to diverse manifestations together, present their views on various relevant issues and seek open and critical dialogue. Through these Abrahamic Teams, a conversation between religions should be nurtured, which could help in addressing prejudices and anxieties among people in Germany. The teams visit schools, universities, police-schools and other institutions involved in educational projects and processes. Various authorities in Germany having seen the value of such teams, are now engaged in furthering their work to build a society respectful of the other.

    Verlag Otto Lembeck, Frankfurt am Main
    ISBN 3-87476-421-4

    John Martin Sahajananda

    Rediscovering the Eastern Jesus

    You are the light

    An interpretation of the message of Jesus from within the context of Hindu-Christian dialogue, drawing on the shared well of these religions.

    In the West we have made God into the Father of Jesus Christ alone, and in doing so we have divided Christians from non-Christians. The journey of the wise men from the East to the stable represents the collective journey of humanity, the journey of our human search for truth. Today we need to travel back with them to the East to recover the context of Jesus' words and renew our own faith.

    O Books, Winchester, U.K.
    ISBN 1-903816-30-0

    Trinity and Inter Faith Dialogue
    Plenitude and Plurality

    Michael Ipgrave

    In inter faith relations, the Trinity is often seen as an embarrassing or irrelevant problem. This study proposes a different approach, seeing Trinitarian thought as a resource for dialogue. Drawing on the suggestions of Paul Tillich and Raimundo Panikkar, the author identifies six key issues to be addressed in Trinitarian dialogue.

    Michael Ipgrave is Inter Faith Relations Adviser to the Archbishops' Council of the Church of England and Executive Secretary of the ecumenical Churches' Commission for Inter Faith Relations. He is an Anglican priest in Leicester.

    Peter Lang, Frankfurt/M., 2003. 397 pp.
    ISBN 3-906769-77-1 / US-ISBN 0-8204-5914-3 pb.


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