Interreligious dialogue, a "risk worth taking"
by Daniele Mazza
Meeting between 220 members of various religions, drawn from 31 countries, organized by the Focolare movement to mark the sixth anniversary of the death of Chiara Lubich, ends today at Castelgandolfo. After 40 years of "bilateral" meetings, a forum brings together the various religions to build bridges of cooperation and peaceful coexistence.

Rome (AsiaNews ) - "Together towards the unity of the human family": This is the title of the Inter- religious meeting that closes today at Castel Gandolfo.  The session, which brought together 220 members of various religions from 31 nations, opened on March 17.  Organized by the Focolare Movement, it marked the sixth anniversary of the death of Chiara Lubich and aims to share the fruits of more than 40 years of encounter between Christians and representatives of the great religions: Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus Sikhs and Shinto.

In the past mainly bilateral meetings, symposia and events were organized: Christian - Muslim, Christian - Hindu , etc ... However for the first time ever, the decision was taken to widen the scope of the meeting and shared experiences. As one speaker said: "In Japan or Thailand, for example, not much is known about the dialogue that is taking place between Christians and Jews. And it may be a surprise for many Muslims to find out what is happening in dialogue with Buddhism and with Hinduism".

Therefore, it was a great treasure, a true gift from God, to establish new relationships and new friendships among participants and find out about the forms dialogue is taking in various parts of the world.

Following the desire for a fruitful dialogue expressed by Larry Yu- yuan Wang, Ambassador of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the Holy See, Father Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, spoke about how dialogue has evolved since the Second Vatican Council and the different emphases of the Popes in recent decades.

John Paul II emphasized the importance of dialogue as a tool to build peace. Benedict XVI often recalled the importance of a dialogue in truth, orientated towards charity, to work together for the poorest. With Pope Francis, the emphasis is instead on a dialogue that is based on personal friendship and which does not hide the truth of who we are and what we believe.

There were then the activities of members of the various religions: Buddhists representatives shared their journey with Christians emphasizing the key concepts of mercy, of emptying oneself, dying to oneself in order to love others and to be fully, truly merciful and the concept of living fully in the present. Those involved in Hindu - Christian dialogue pointed out how it has the form of a common social commitment for the poor and for the out-caste with many shared commitments especially in education.

Religions were often accused of being irrelevant or an impediment to social change or in some cases they were caste aside and restricted to the purely ritualistic and functional sphere. Instead, the challenge is to show that faith and life are inseparable. One speaker said: "The more one loves and trusts in God, the more one loves and trusts mankind. The more one loves and trusts in mankind, the more one loves and trusts in God".

A greater freedom of speech emerged in the development of Jewish-Christian dialogue in a debate and collaboration that heretofore was marked by strong prejudices. Finally, in dialogue with Muslims the importance of being a sign of unity and fraternity was underscored, especially in those contexts (such as in the Holy Land), where political and cultural reasons create clashes and divisions. Being children of the same God is far more important than cultural and political divisions.

During this meeting it was often stated that dialogue is a risk and often faced with many obstacles. But it is a risk worth running. Dialogue , when carried out in truth and with humility, changes us and makes us delve deeper into our respective religious traditions. It makes us appreciate diversity and helps us to cooperate so that the world is more humane. Several participants agreed that dialogue is not a means to obtaining something, it is not a strategy. It must become a way of life!