Vatican City (AsiaNews) – An international conference on ‘Interreligious Dialogue: the Asian Perspective’ was held this morning in the John Paul II auditorium of the Pontifical Urbaniana University. The event follows an initiative by Asian ambassadors to the Holy See to promote mutual understanding and tolerance among religions.
Fr Markus Solo Kewuta opened the presentations on behalf of Mgr Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The Indonesian priest illustrated the decades of commitment by the Catholic Church to interreligious dialogue, which reached particular impetus during the pontificates of Pope Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis.
“The Catholic Church’” Fr Solo said, “is convinced that we cannot call God ‘everyone’s Father’ if we refuse to treat everyone in a fraternal way. God is not the cause of divisions, but the foundation of our unity.” Involving younger generations in education to dialogue is “critical”, said the clergyman.
“We must nurture a new lifestyle in our families, in political, civil and religious organisations, rejecting violence and respecting the human person. Through what all religions have in common – prayer, fasting, charity and pilgrimage – we can show that people of faith are factors of peace in society and respond to those who unjustly claim that religions foster hatred and violence. Prayer, dialogue, respect and solidarity are the only weapons to fight terrorism, extremism, fundamentalism and all forms of war.”
Prof Syafiq A. Mughni, a special envoy of the President of the Republic of Indonesia on Dialogue and Interfaith and Civilisation Cooperation, explained to those present how religious harmony represents an indispensable value for his government. The multicultural and multi-religious nature of the archipelago has put pluralism as the foundation of the nation.
The relationship between Catholicism and esoteric Shingon Buddhism was the topic of the presentation of Fr Peter Baekelmans, a member of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM) and a visiting professor at the Katholieke Universiteit (KY), Leuven (Belgium).
Venerable Miao Duo, superintendent for France of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist monastic order, also spoke of initiatives of dialogue with the Catholic Church. Dr Mohammad Ali Shomali, founding director of the International Institute for Islamic Studies in the United Kingdom, highlighted the theological misunderstandings of those who use the Qurʼān to justify violent ideologies.
The seminar ended with Mgr Paul R. Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See. He stressed “the positive approach to religion, typical of most Asian cultures, which represents a fundamental contribution to interreligious dialogue”.
“This is in contrast with a certain bias that still exists, above all, in the western world. According to this bias, religion is at the root of conflicts and should be confined to the individual conscience or at most to the place of worship. But as the Holy Father said at the peace conference at Al-Azhar University, religion is not the problem but part of the solution.”