Writing group on Ecumenical Considerations for Buddhist-Christian Dialogue meets in Geneva
A group of clergy, interfaith practitioners and scholars met in Geneva from 26-27 November to produce a document outlining ecumenical considerations for Buddhist-Christian relations and dialogue. Taking into account the significant presence and the increasing influence of Buddhism across the world and particularly among its member churches, the document is meant to be an easily accessible resource to practically equip member churches to engage with Buddhism and Buddhists in an informed and sensitive manner.
Constituting about 6.9% of the world population, Buddhists are the fourth biggest religious community in the world. The World Council of Churches (WCC) constituency has churches in countries with a strong Buddhist presence and influence like Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, South Korea, China and Japan as well as cultures/contexts where people are becoming more aware of and receptive to Buddhist presence and influence around them.
Reflecting on the meeting, Rev. Dr Peniel Jesudason Rufus Rajkumar, WCC programme coordinator of the Office of Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation said, “Buddhist-Christian relations have been an important part of the interreligious engagement of the diverse and wide-ranging constituency of the WCC. This document is meant to further deepen and strengthen this relationship in a concrete manner, taking into serious consideration the transitions within and between these two religious traditions”.
Emphasizing that the primary purpose of this long overdue initiative was to create a practical tool to enable churches to better understand Buddhism and engage meaningfully with Buddhists, Rajkumar said “this resource is meant to offer analysis and insight of some of the important concerns and considerations – theological, spiritual, political as well as practical - that Christians need to be aware of while seeking to engage in dialogue with Buddhists. What is envisaged is a resource that will address critical questions, redress deep-seated misunderstandings, build up mutual trust and foster friendships at multiple levels so that dialogue between Buddhists and Christians becomes a dialogue of and for life”.