Issue 43, July 2004
Current Dialogue no. 43 reflects, beyond articles written by friends in the Interfaith Dialogue Movement, some of our activities this year in the Office on Interreligious Relations and Dialogue (IRRD). It is worth noting that the WCC consciously tries to make sure that the interfaith dimension of its work is not only channeled through the IRRD. In fact teams such as Faith & Order, Ecumenical Formation, International Relations, the Decade to Overcome Violence worked in close co-operation with IRRD in planning and implementing a multifaith consultation held at the Ecumenical Institute Bossey June 8-13. This consultation explored the relationship between religion, power and violence. History and our present days witness to the role of religion in peace making and reconciliation, but it is also increasingly true that religion is used to fuel conflict and violence. Within the framework of the “Decade to Overcome Violence - Churches Seeking Peace and Reconciliation”, and the priority of the WCC and Bossey to foster good and constructive inter-religious relations, the main objective of this consultation was to provide a space to discuss the interrelationship between religion, power and violence. Work is underway to make the proceedings of this consultation available to a wider public. At this time we just provide a sample.
Rev. LaVerne Gill compiles some of the findings of the consultation in a report, documenting the sharing of participants on “Models, Tools and Inter-faith Gatherings for Peace-building”. The information and above all addresses and links to various kinds of initiatives for interreligious peace building provide valuable and useful reading.
At the beginning of July a Theravada Buddhist – Christian consultation took place at Tao Fung Shan Centre in Hong Kong. This consultation was the fruit a long cooperation between the IRRD and the Regional Relations Team. Buddhist and Christian leaders met to discuss relations between the two communities in Theravada Buddhist countries such as Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. At this time we would like to present one of the two keynote addresses by Parichart Suwanbubbha, a Buddhist scholar from Mahidol University in Bangkok. The consultation coincided with a visit by the WCC General Secretary Sam Kobia to Hong Kong. His address at the consultation was much appreciated by Buddhist and Christian participants. A report presents the main themes discussed during the consultation. A more complete report is in production. The Aeropagos Foundation, Tao Fung Shan Centre and the Japanese Buddhist lay movement Rissho Kosei Kai graciously supported our consultation. We are grateful to the Christian Conferance of Asia for providing logistical support.
Imam Rashied Omar from Cape Town, serving as Coordinator of the Kroc Institute’s Project on Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame delivered quite recently the Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday Congregational Sermon) at the Islamic Society of Michiana (South Bend, Indiana). His sermon is entitled A Belated Muslim Response to the Humanitarian Crisis in Darfur. We are grateful that we can reproduce it in Current Dialogue.
Conversion was one of the issues discussed at the Theravada Buddhist – Christian consultation. It is a sensitive topic, which touches upon respect for religious plurality, freedom of religion, religious liberty, and communal harmony. Attempts to legislate against conversion and issuing of anti-mission laws have contributed to fear and suspicion, eroding good interreligious relations. There is a need to find common ground to establish respect for the integrity of the other.
During our consultation in Hong Kong we learned about speculations in relation to the recruitment of a new coach for the national football team in an Asian country. Some zealous Christian groups wished to turn to Brazil, football nation par excellence and also a country, where evangelical and para-church groups excel. Maybe one could find a Brazilian born-again football coach for the national team to convey Christianity in “football” guise to fans throughout the country. As much as we need to discuss religious liberty, we certainly need to address the question of a code of conduct on the issue of conversion.
At the Millennium Peace Conference in August 2000 in New York, I was part of a small group addressing the particular issue of conversion in India. We agreed upon an “Informal Working Understanding - Freedom from Coercion in Religion.” The relevance of the text goes beyond the particular situation in India.
1. We agree that the free and generous preaching of the Christian Gospel is welcome in India.
Swami Dayananda Saraswati, India
The Office on Interreligious Relations and Dialogue in their yearly staff meeting with colleagues in the Pontifical Council for Interreligious dialogue are planning a focused study on the issue of conversion in interreligious relations, which is likely to take place next year.
Wishing you enjoyable reading of this issue of Current Dialogue.
NEW : Publication Mid-September