11/07/2005, 00.00
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Thai Church remembers Nostra Aetate

by Weena Kowitwanij
Inter-faith dialogue but also exchanges with the country's intellectuals are the bases of peaceful coexistence between Catholics and Buddhists.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Thai Catholics and the Thai Church "live peacefully and in harmony with the Buddhist majority" because "both understand and apply the basic teachings of their faiths", said Card Michai Kitbunchu, Archbishop of Bangkok, during the 40th anniversary celebrations of the conciliar declaration Nostra Aetate.

The prelate reminded the faithful of the "need for a dialogue with other religions", citing the example of Buddhataspikku, a follower of Buddha, who once said: "We, believers of each religion, can live in peace when we put into practice our religions' teachings".

Fr Chusak Sirisudh, director of the Religion and Culture Research Centre, said that  "[i]nter-religious dialogue is not the only mission of  the Thai Church; it is among the three tasks of the Church in Asia, namely inter-religious dialogue, dialogue with local intellectuals and dialogue with the poor."

Father Sirisudh explained that "in light of spiritual exchanges and discussions, Christians must always have the humility and kindness of their master and never act arrogantly or provocatively by exalting one and mortifying the other".

"From the point of view of developing positive relations with believers of other religions we must open our hearts and listen to others, respect them and try to understand what they might have that does not correspond to our dogmas. This way we can fulfil God's commandment to love our brothers and sisters".

"The world situation and that of southern Thailand require an immediate and effective dialogue between religions. We cannot allow religious and cultural differences to divide us or destroy peace," he stressed.

Southern Thailand has been afflicted by violence between Muslim separatists and Buddhists. In three predominantly Muslim provinces—Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani—violence has killed more than 1,100 people since last January.

Thailand's 62 million people are 95 per cent Buddhist. Muslims constitute 4 per cent of the population, whilst Christians are about 1 per cent. Catholics are under 300,000.

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