Christian Corner: Inter-faith dialogue is a work in progress
2019-05-01 17:06:47 -

A scholar from Georgetown University in the US recently spoke at Dublin City University to highlight recent developments in Buddhist-Christian dialogue.


In the discussion held with staff and students, Professor Leo Lefebure used anecdotal stories and practical contact with and observation from his own extensive work.


He started with his participation at the seminal intermonastic Buddhist-Christian dialogue meetings at Gethsemani Abbey. The significant moments and dialogical encounters he highlighted were between main leaders, in particular the Dalai Lama, and how the memory of Thomas Merton brought them all together.


Following significant highlights of different Buddhist traditions, practices, and groups across the globe and their experiences with Christianity, Prof Lefebure presented Pope Francis’ Laudato si’, which drew special attention to the necessity for inter-religious partnership and dialogue to deal with the global issue of climate change.


Coincidentally, Prof Lefebure said ecological awareness is one of the main concerns of Buddhists.


He added that the most challenging obstacle in Buddhist-Christian dialogue was ethno-nationalism such that has been witnessed in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and several other places. Although anti-Muslim sentiment was the main thrust of such nationalism, he said other groups, including Christians, are also risk of violence.


In such situation, those who preach dialogue say it is the best way of achieving a peaceful coincidence. According to Columban missionaries: “In a world where too often communities convulsed by conflict, or where diversity is seen as a challenge to be met rather than an opportunity to be taken, dialogue is the best way to build relations, promote peace, develop mutual understanding, build harmony, grow in truth and love and work collaboratively for the welfare of all people and all creation.”


The organisation advocates for inter-religious dialogue at different levels, including “dialogue of life, dialogue of the hands, dialogue the heart, and dialogue of the head”.


They explain: “The dialogue of life is where people share as neighbours and friends the common challenges and experiences of life. The dialogue of hands is where people of different faiths come together to work cooperatively to help build a better world together.


“The dialogue of hearts is where, in an atmosphere of trust and respect, people from different faith communities share with each other their tradition of prayer and contemplation, worship and religious experience. Finally, dialogue of the head is where more formal theological discussion and exchange takes place, often in a more academic setting. ”


The experience in Ireland of interfaith dialogue has been a work in progress and mainly through the Dublin City Interfaith Forum which involves seven main faiths — Buddhist, Baha’i, Christian, Hindu, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism. Today, more and more interfaith forums are being established across the country.


The Columbans add: “The common testimony of those engaged in inter-religious dialogue is that their lives have been enriched by the spiritual values and religious commitment of the people they encounter; that their horizons have been expanded by insights into the many and various ways that God has entered into peoples’ lives, and they have been strengthened in their own faith commitment.”


Compiled by Chinedu Onyejelem


Christian Corner is supported by The Redeemed Christian Church of God Ireland


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