A group of seven people of different faiths from Australia have already visited Delhi and Varanasi, symbolic places for Islam and Hinduism. Now they will travel to Bodh Gaya (the cradle of Buddhism) and Kolkata, important for Christians thanks to Mother Teresa. “It is also true, that at times people are afraid; however, faith is always open to others”. Sadly, “Those who close in on themselves do not understand their own faith”.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – An interfaith pilgrimage from Australia to India is currently underway and will touch four cities that symbolise the great religions of the South Asian nation.
“The purpose of the pilgrimage is to visit religious sites that are sacred to Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity, to study texts from our sacred writings, to discuss points of agreement and disagreement, and so sense the religious experience that is proper to these faiths,” said Fr John Dupuche, chair of the Catholic Interfaith Committee of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, who is leading the pilgrimage.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Dupuche said that interfaith pilgrimage shows “the great need for interfaith dialogue”. For him, the visit, which will touch the cities of Delhi, Varanasi, Bodh Gaya and Kolkata, is part of the Jubilee of Mercy.
The group of Australian pilgrims includes seven leading figures from different faiths who want “to live our own faith, with understanding another's faith,” Fr Dupuche explained.
The Jubilee, he added, can help “find out what is true and holy in other religions and in that process, one can understand another's faith better. During these meetings and visits to the sacred spaces of the other faiths, we come to face the ‘shadows’ of our tradition and acknowledge the truth that is found in the other.”
In Delhi, which is important for Islam, the Australian pilgrims met with several Muslim leaders promoters of dialogue between the faiths. At present, they are in Varanasi, a city that symbolically important for Hinduism.
“In Delhi, and now in Varanasi, we are very happy as a group,” noted Fr Dupuche, who is a senior lecturer at the University of Divinity (Melbourne), and an Honorary Fellow at Australian Catholic University. “We are participating in group discussions on the major texts of these traditions, and sharing the reflections on them. Raising questions has been a rich experience”.
At the same time, “This is a spiritual journey,” he explained. “The acceptance of our own diversity has helped us understand the depth of each other more clearly. Diversity helps us perceive the Depths of God more deeply.
In Varanasi, the pilgrims met with Rakesh Pandey, a renowned yoga teacher, and had dinner with Dr Bettina Sharada Bäumer, a noted scholar of Hindu texts.
Participants will continue to Bodh Gaya and then Kolkata, where they will take part in a Mass at the tomb of Mother Teresa and visit Khalighat, the hospice for the dying.
The “great variety of religious experiences,” Fr Dupuche said, “allows us to feel the rich beauty of India’s differences, showing that it is a land of great richness.”
Acknowledging the contradictions of a country where intolerance threatens religious freedom, the Australian clergyman noted, “This just shows the great need for interfaith dialogue, because people can very easily close in on themselves and see the other, as an enemy, whereas, they should see the other as a friend, and as a way to understand their faith better.”
Although “at times people are afraid, faith is always open to other people.” Sadly, “Those who close in on themselves do not understand their own faith”.