India, Franciscan nuns promote inter-religious dialogue: An experience of deliverance
In 1986 the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary created groups for Interreligious Dialogue. Their work is developed in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and other parts of India. They created a network of collaboration with other organizations that support friendly relations between religious communities. Thanks to mutual understanding, conflicts between Christians and Muslims defused.
Chennai (AsiaNews) – “We promote inter-religious dialogue in India because it is an experience of deliverance”, says Sister Mary John Kattikatta, a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (Fmm), speaking to AsiaNews about her mission in India.
Along with a group of nuns since 1986 Sister Mary John is responsible for spreading dialogue and understanding between the various religious communities in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and other areas. The nun says that this effort "has helped us to ensure that the entire population of the country, regardless of the religion they profess, are children of the same God."
One of the activities used to encourage dialogue are the circles of faiths studio, where they gather from different communities. Once a week Hindus, Muslims and Christians pray, study and reflect together on the sacred books of their respective religions. Sister Mary John reports that "these studies have allowed us to expand our mental horizons and accept the good and the beautiful in the other confessions."
Over the years the sisters have created a network with similar groups that support interfaith dialogue and intercultural approach: they are the Aleyam, the Madras Association of Inter-Cultural Philosophy, the Gandhi Peace Foundation and Inter-faith movement for human solidarity. "Thanks to these activities with people of other faiths - it says - we built loving relationships. Dialogue on all aspects need to live harmoniously in any environment".
Among the components of their work, the sisters visit Hindu and Muslim families. It is "a rewarding experience, because at first people looked at us suspiciously so. When they are convinced that our visits were aimed on creating healthy relationships, their attitude of indifference and outrage changed. Now they are our friends and partners in the dialogues ".
One tangible result of the social work of the sisters is how it has managed to defuse serious friction between Christians and Muslims. Sister Mary John remembers one episode in particular: "A few years ago some Christian religious fanatics have distributed leaflets outside a mosque, while the Muslim faithful were leaving after prayers. Offended in their religious feelings and fearing it was an attempt to convert them to Christianity, Muslims reacted beating the pastor. But then their violence was quelled by the intervention of a Muslim well respected in the community, which is a member of our dialogue groups. The conflict was resolved because he was able to recognize and appreciate our efforts in building harmony in that area. "
"Our only aim - says Sister Mary - is to communicate the message of love of God. We are here to strengthen an inclusive attitude and to enter into communion with all, always maintaining our identity as Christians."