The Power of Tolerance in Interfaith Dialogue
The year 2015 will see the formal inauguration of the ASEAN community. It is imperative that proper preparations be made to correspond with this event. Both the Thai government sector and the private sector have been carrying out ongoing work in this respect, along with an engagement by monastic educational institutions, including Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University (MCU). Both internally and externally, this engagement aims to strengthen the ties between various offices and organizations.
MCU has established an ASEAN Promotion Center and a Language Institute for supporting the development of human resources. For instance, it has created a curriculum titled: ‘MCU Leaders for Change in the ASEAN Community,’ which has both a theoretical and practical dimension. Recently, between September 1st and 3rd of this year, a group of students went on a study trip to Singapore under the guidance of Ven. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sigambhirayarn, Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs at MCU, and accompanied by Ven. Phramaha Hansa Dhammahaso, Assistant to the Rector for Academic Affairs and director of the Masters Program for Peace Studies. On this trip they visited the Phor Kark See Monastery/ Buddhist College of Singapore (an associate institution of MCU).
Ven. Phramaha Hansa reported that Ven. Seck Kwang Phing, the president of the Singapore Buddhist Federation, met with Muslim leaders and exchanged greetings with other members of the Singaporean Muslim community, in order to exchange ideas on how to improve relations between Islam and other religious traditions in Singapore. This meeting had another important objective, that is, to invite leaders from ten different religions in Singapore to participate in a forum of religious leaders to promote peace in the the ASEAN community. This forum, titled ‘Religious Tolerance,’ will take place this month between September 24-29 at MCU, Wang Noi, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya. More than seventy religious leaders from ten different ASEAN countries will attend this interfaith dialogue.
The Power of Tolerance in Interfaith Dialogue:
Ven. Maha Hansa also mentioned that there are two factors acting as a vital foundation for interfaith dialogue leading to peace, namely, tolerance and mindfulness. Interfaith dialogue is unable to be fully effective in establishing peace if there is a lack of tolerance and mindfulness. Mindfulness is the basis for listening, i.e., to engage in ‘mindful listening,’ in order to consider and analyze the subject matter thoroughly and comprehensively. While remaining alert through mindful listening, it is important to increase the effectiveness of listening by developing ‘active listening,’ i.e., to summon patience and tolerance in response to the ideas and opinions of those who hold different beliefs or views from our own. Here, one refrains from refuting those ideas one disagrees with and one listens to others thoroughly and extensively before offering one’s own observations. One does not hasten to judge which ideas and beliefs are superior or more correct, especially in regard to matters pertaining to religious beliefs, which stem from different socio-cultural contexts.
There has been an ongoing relationship between Singapore and Thailand in regard to religious matters. Before the group of students enrolled in the course ‘MCU Leaders for Change in the ASEAN Community’ visited Singapore on the recent study trip, a group of representatives from the Buddhist College Singapore (BCS), an associate institution of MCU, visited MCU to meet and consult with the MCU Vice-Rector for Foreign Affairs, on the 28th of August of this year.
This is one of many images of unity and concord juxtaposed on the diversity inherent in the ASEAN community, which will be formally inaugurated next year. And between September 24-29 of this year the forum on Religious Tolerance at MCU will represent the integration and harmony between the various elements within the ASEAN community.