Asian interfaith dialogue shows mixed results

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Asian interfaith dialogue shows mixed resultsInterfaith dialogue across Asia is mixed – some areas hold out promise, while in others dialogue has worsened, says the head of the Asian bishops’ office for interreligious affairs.

The fact that the “Allah” issue in Malaysia has exploded in the media “means that dialogue has not been going well,” said Archbishop Fernando Capalla of Davao, chairperson of the Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs under the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.

The Philippine prelate was speaking on the sidelines of a July 12-18 meeting that the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue is holding with its Asian members and consulters.

Participants from 17 Asian countries and territories are attending the meeting in Sam Phran, Thailand.

“Hindu extremists in India went as far as killing nuns, destroying churches and displacing families,” Archbishop Capalla said in his keynote address.

Nevertheless, there is “Good News” in other parts of Asia, he said.

In South Korea, Buddhists, Catholics and Protestants have been sponsoring interfaith dialogue over the past three to four years.

Dialogue, particularly between Christians and Muslims, is also “quite strong in the Philippines and Indonesia.”

The archbishop said the successes of the Bishops-Ulama Conference in the Philippines have spurred calls to replicate it in other countries.

The governments of Myanmar and Vietnam have lately also been very interested in interreligious dialogue. “Myanmar invited us [FABC] to give talks. The Vietnamese government wants the FABC plenary assembly to be held in Ho Chi Minh City,” he said.

Archbishop Capalla noted that one difficulty with interreligious dialogue in Asia is that “the ideas of Asian theologians are not quite acceptable to European theologians.”

He said that “by listening to the reports [at this meeting], we will be able to discover which dialogue Asian bishops should emphasize.”

Francis Chan, Sam Phran (07/14/2010)