Issue 43, July 2004

Dear friends,

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.

Inside this issue of Current Dialogue ...

Models, tools and inter-faith gatherings for peace-building - group report from
the 6th W.A. Visser't Hooft memorial consultation: Religion, Power and Violence

– LaVerne M.Gill

The dialogue of religions: source of knowledge? means of peace? – John D’Arcy May

Promoting human rights and peace – the role of religion – R. Sampatkamar

A belated Muslim response to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur – A. Rashied Omar

Theravada Buddhist-Christian consultation: Towards a culture of religious diversity and communal harmony
- Towards a culture of religious diversity and communal harmony - keynote address
by Parichart Suwanbubbha
- The spiritual dimension to promote communal harmony – Samuel Kobia
- Report of the participants

Inter-faith integrity and Christian witness: a consultation in Bangalore – Clare Amos, Michael Ipgrave, Susanne Mitchell, Andrew Wingate

What the Islamic veil unveils about French universalism - Reda Benkirane

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.
2. We condemn proselytism; we particularly reject the exploitation of the issue of poverty in religious outreach and missionary work.
3. We agree that the giving of aid to those in need is a primary commandment of all our religious and spiritual traditions; we are resolved that this act of justice should never be tied to compulsory conversion.
We commit ourselves to a continuing dialogue in the spirit of interreligious harmony, mutual respect, and the cooperative common effort to build a better world. In this way, we will discover trust in one another that any altruistic work will not be a means for conversion.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati, India
Swami Chidananda Saraswati, India
Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp, Summit International Advisory Board
Dr Hans Ucko, World Council of Churches
Fr. Albert Nambiaparambil, India
Fr. Maximilian Mizzi, Assisi
Dr B.K. Modi, India
Fr. John Pawlikowski, Catholic Theological Union, Chicago
Mr Jim Kennedy, Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions

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.

Hans Ucko

NEW : Publication Mid-September

Axis of Peace:
Reflections on War, Violence and Religion

S. Wesley Ariarajah

The war in Iraq is over, and we are now facing its aftermath. The searching and divisive questions raised for the churches by the invasion of Iraq linger on. Are there “just wars”? What does the Bible teach about war and violence? What constitutes patriotism when one’s nation is at war? Is there theological justification for wars of self-defence or liberation?

S. Wesley Ariarajah explores these questions to facilitate ongoing conversation in faith communities. Surveying instances of violence in many regions of the globe, often involving confrontation between religious communities, Ariarajah examines what violence does to those who perpetrate it on others. Moving beyond simplistic notions of “good” and “evil” in world affairs, he calls on peoples of faith to counter terror in all its forms through the creation of an “axis of peace”.

S. Wesley Ariarajah, a Methodist scholar of religions from Sri Lanka, is professor of ecumenical theology at the graduate and theological schools of Drew University, Madison NJ, USA.

A WCC Publication
ISBN 2-8254-1394-1, 130pp.,
approx. CHF19.00, US$11.50, £7.95, €13.00

By the same author:
Not Without My Neighbour - Issues in Interfaith Relations,
ISBN 2-8254-1308-9, 138pp., CHF19.00, US$11.50, £7.95, €13.00
Did I Betray the Gospel? The Letters of Paul and the Place of Women,
ISBN 2-8254-1183-3, 72pp., CHF14.00, US$8.50, £5.95, €9.00
The Bible and People of Other Faiths,
ISBN 2-8254-0840-9, 88pp., CHF14.00, US$8.50, £5.95, €9.00

DHARMA La voie du Bouddha
La discipline

Vivre selon le Dharma

Dossier - Magazine
Editions Prajna
Avril 2004
ISBN 2-905188-60-8

Religion and Ecology
in India and Southeast Asia

David Gosling,
University of Cambridge, UK


ISBN 0-415-24030-1 (hardback)
ISBN 0-415-24031-X (paperback)

Christian encounters
with Jews and Judaism

Edited by John C. Merkle
The Liturgical Press
Minnesota, 2003
ISBN 0-8146-5117-8

The concept of Salvation
in the Upanishads, the Bible and
the Qur’an

Dr Abraham Karickam
Published by :
Cosmos Community Centre
Distributed by :
C.S.S. Book Shop, Kerala, India

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