Dialogue with Other Religions
Dialogue with other religions, which are significant and posotive elements in the economy of God’s design of salvation, is an integral dimension of the mission of the Church, which is the sacrament of the Kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus. In Aisa today, Christians, though they are a “little flock” in many places, animated by the Spirit who is leading all things to unity, are called to play a serving and catalysing role which facilitates interreligious collaboration. This call challenges all the Churches to common witness as they grow together towards fuller ecumenical communion.
Economy of God’s Salvation
The Second Vatican Council not only reaffirms the traditional doctrine that “the Holy Spirit in a maner known only to God offers to every person the possibility of being associated with God’s paschal mystery”, but has a possitive view of these religions because they are ways through which the quest for God is expressed, given especially human being’s social nature. The common vocation of all peoples, who have God as their origin and goal, is stressed. The Asian bishops “accept them as significant and positive elements in the economy of God’s design of salvation” and “acknowledge that God has drawn our peoples to Godself through them”.
Fruits of the Spirit
Its experience of the other reigions had led the Church inAsia to this positive appreciation of their role in the divine economy of salvation. This appreciation is based on the fruits of the Spirit perceived in the lives of the other religions’ believers : a sence of the sacred, a commitment to the pursuit of fullness, a thirst for self-realisation, a taste for prayer and commitment,a desire for renunciation, a struggle for justice, an urge to basic human goodness, an involvement in service, a total surrender of the self to God, and an attachment to the transcendent in their symbols, rituals and life itself, though human weakness and sin are not absent.
Kingdom of God
This positive appreciation is futher rooted in the conviction of faith that God’s plan of salvation for humanity is one and reaches out to all peoples : it is theKingdom ofGod through which God seeks to reconcile all things with Godself in Jesus Christ. The Church is a sacrament of this mystery – a symbolic realisation that it is on mission towards its fulfilment. It is an integral part of this mission to discern the action of God in peoples in order to lead them to fulfilment. Dialogue is the only way in which this can be done, respectful both of God’s presence and action and of the freedom of conscience of the believers of other religions.
Unity of God’s Plan
Pope John Paul II has emphasised the unity of God’s plan for humanity and the Church’s mission with reference to it : “If it is the order of unity that goes back to creation and redemption and is therefore, in this sense, ‘divine’, such differences - and even religious divergences – go back rather to a ‘human fact’, and must be overcome in progress towards the realisation of the mighty plan of unity which dominates the creation.
There are undeniably differences that reflect the genius and the spiritual ‘riches’ which God has given to the peoples. I am not refering to these divergences; I intend here to speak of the differences in which are revealed the limitations, the evolutions and the falls of the human spirit which is undermined by the spirit of evil in history. The Church is called to work with all her energies (evangelisation, prayer, dialogue) so that the wounds and divisions of peoples – which separate them from their origin and Goal, and make them hostile to one another – may be healed; it means also that the entire human race, in the infinite complexity of its history, with its different cultures, is ‘called to from the new People of God’ in which the blessed union of God with humans and the unity of the human family are healed, consolidated, and raised up”.
In Asia today the Christians are a “little flock”. This could lead them to be self-defensive. Only an experience of the mystery in their own lives, in secrament and community, a living contact with other believers in an atmosphere of openness and trust, an awareness of the universal dimensions of Gos’ plan and the realisation of one’s very life as mission can help them to discover their obligation to dialogue. This obligation is in no way equal interest in dialogue, because dialogue is not simple an attempt at coexistence among religions, but a demand on the Church of its very life as mission.
The interest and strength that come from such an awareness enable the Church not only to dialogue individually with each religion, but also to render the service of unity by facilitating the encounter and collaboration among religions. Such a service of unity would certainly raise the question of the existing divisions among the Churches themselves inAsiaand challenge them to move towards an ecumenical communion. But this journey towards communion need not prevent, but rather encourage the Churches in giving a common witness to their faith in Jesus and the Kingdom.
FABC – Theological Advisory Commission Documents
Dialogues? Resource Manual For Catholics in Asia - 2001, p. 87-88.
Editor: Edmund Chia, FSC