06/06/2008, 00.00
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“The various religions must engage in a dialogue that is truly open-minded, says Mgr Dabre

by Nirmala Carvalho
On the occasion of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, the Indian bishop reiterates the need for a “dialogue between religions” that is “truly open-minded.” Mother Teresa and Pope Benedict XVI are examples to follow in order to advance inter-faith “harmony.”

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – “India is a society with a non-Christian majority, where Christians are but 2.5 per cent. For this reason the various religions must engage in a dialogue that is truly open-minded,’ said Mgr Thomas Dabre, Indian bishop of Vasai and a member of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, on the occasion of the Council’s 10th assembly, whose theme is "Dialogue in Truth and Charity,” currently underway in Rome.

“We have, on the one hand, modern society with some of the problems that entails, namely fundamentalism, extremism, fanaticism,” the bishop said; “on the other, there are issues linked to ecology, human rights violations, justice and peace, atheism, secularism, agnosticism, sexual immorality and the decline of the family, i.e. all factors on which believers can find a common voice if they want meet these challenges.”

For Monsignor Dabre Christ’s Word is meant to bring to the world “the fullness of life.” For this reason we must work together to bring about peace, harmony, trust and unity as well as encourage “inter-religious dialogue” and the “Church’s missionary role.”

Thanks to Mother Teresa’s example, we can understand the extent to which “announcing salvation” can stimulate “harmony among various faiths,” the prelate noted, for in doing so the Church becomes a more credible witness to the “Good News.”

In India though, missionaries are accused of forced conversions, a clear sign of ‘ignorance or misconception” of how they operate. Mutual knowledge and respect can thus “clear away all doubts,” said the Indian bishop, and show how “wrong it is to compare missionary activities to forced conversion given the fact that proclaiming the Word of Christ is an appeal to the conscience and liberty of each individual.”

Indeed “the spirit of reciprocity is essential in inter-religious dialogue,” he stressed, because it represents “a bridge that unites” various parties “who feel legitimised, recognised and enriched.”

“It is sharing, give and take, at the individual, social, religious, economic, professional and spiritual levels, reciprocity inspired by Christian love that aims at everyone’s wellbeing.”

However, Monsignor Dabre bemoans an attitude of “intolerance, fanaticism and fundamentalism” that prevails in some countries in the world, including his native India, where “violence and the persecution of Christians” are growing exponentially, and where some state “governments have banned conversions” altogether.

Like Pope Benedict XVI, he reiterated the need for “full religious freedom” as a “fundamental and most intimate right of man which should never be denied.” Likewise, “missionaries should not be hindered in their mission of announcing the Good News.”

“History,” concludes the bishop, “teaches us that every attempt to suppress religious freedom has failed.”

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