Global Co-operation of the Religions
(Note from the translator: This is
a translation from German, not the original language of Mar Gregorios.)
My dear friends!
Dialogue as mission method?
Thirdly there is also a theological problem for Christians regarding
the relationship between mission and dialogue. In the World Council of the
Churches we have used much ink and still more words because of this antagonism
between mission and dialogue. The problem is often solved as the dialogue
is subordinated to mission, which creates large problems for the non-Christians.
I remember a dialogue with Hindus in the Himalayas a long time ago in 1955.
I was still rather young, and everything was quite new for me. During a coffee
break (where the real dialogue takes place), a Hindu professor said to me:
"You seem to be an honest man, can I ask you a question? Now you Christians
talk about dialogue. Is this because your evangelization failed in the past
and you want to try a new tactics?" I think that his comment applies to the
dialogue of the Christians with other religions. Because we were not successful
in our mission, we try now to create communication by dialogue. Many official
explanations of Christians suggest this.
Distrust toward Christians
That is the kind of communication gap which exists between the
religions. I assure you that the other religions recognize the abilities of
the Christians to organize good conferences but they do not trust their good
intentions. Other religions are very distrustful concerning the Christian
position in the inter-religious dialogue. That is a reason why we must make
clear from the outset what our intentions and motives are for engaging in
the inter-religious dialogue.
Inter-religious harmony in pre-Christian time
The inter-religious dialogue did not begin before 25 years. For someone like me, who comes from India, where the Christians are approximately 2.6% of the population and where eight different religions live together, inter-religious dialogue is an old thing. Yes, it is even older than Christianity. We have an edict of Emperor Asoka in rock. Asoka was an emperor in India in the 3rd Century before Christ. This edict is extremely fascinating because it already specifies some principles of the inter-religious dialogue in the third century before Christ. The edict has the following contents:
Already in the third century before Christ, Emperor Ashoka meant to set up this rock edict in different parts of the country. This tells us that he wanted different religions to respect each other, and not to condemn each other. This principle has not always been considered in my country, but it is a part of our inheritance. Asoka carried out something that we cannot do today. Asoka supported not only his own religion, the Buddhism, but also Hinduism, the Jainism, the Shamanism and different other religions, which existed at the time in India. It more or less supported it in the same way. It did not prefer its religion. Inspired of Asoka's example, I would like to give a few orienting points for a global co-operation of the religions. In the past we did the dialogue in order to understand each other and to communicate with one another. I think we must continue it. We must set ourselves a clear goal which I would like to summarize into four points.
1) Global community of all groups
Modern technology has made communication with all parts of the
world possible, but this technological progress has not caused the unity of
mankind yet. So long as destruction, war and profit remain the principal purposes
of science and technology, the world will not be united. I have the suspicion
that a secular-liberal, humanism cannot unite this world. Some intellectual
ones may approve the vision of a secular-liberal, humanistic organization,
the UN for example. But most people do not support this idea. We often forget
that out of the world population of 5 billion, only about a billion are without
some form of religion. The remaining four billion belong to a religion. There
are approximately 1.3 billion Christians, perhaps 900 million Muslims, 700
million Hindus, 350 million Buddhists, perhaps 300 million Confusianists
(that is difficult to estimate), approximately 70 million Shintoists, 20
million Sikhs, and the same number of Jews. All these religions are afraid
of a secualr-liberal humanism. They fear that if secular structures dominate,
the religions will be pushed to a marginal position. Therefore they hesitate
to endorse this kind of structure. I believe, however, that the only way to
unite the mankind is that secular and religious aspects are combined. There
are different ways to exceed national borders. The multinational restaurant
companies, to point out one, overcome national borders and be a global unit
to manufacture. But many people, above all poor, are afraid of a united world,
in which multinational companies dominate.
2) Peace, justice, life-promoting environment
Regarding the world community, I would emphasize three aspects, which should mark the future global society: Justice, peace and a life-promoting environment. Justice in a society and between the societies, peace on regional as well as on world-wide level, and a healthy environment within the local as well as in the global range. These three main points should be always present, even if the IRFWF has only the word peace in their name. I understand peace in the sense of the Old Testament Hebrew, Shalom, which includes justice exactly the same way plants include flowers. All these must be part of our concept of peace, which is the basis for this global community. A legislative body will also be necessary, as well as an executive and a kind of parliament or decision-making institution. But the most important is the stress of true peace with true justice and real health of the environment. I believe that these three things are indivisible and that the concept of Shalom includes all three. If we cannot aim at justice, we cannot have peace either, and we will not be able to create peace without justice and without healthy environment. These three things are connected. The local, regional, and world-wide level must also be connected. If we work only on the global level, nothing much happens. If we work only on the regional level, it will not function either. The local level is the root. The work must at done at the local level at the same time it is done at the regional and at the international level, whereby we concentrate on justice, on peace and on the integrity of the creation.
3)The stress on Transcendental Dimension
The third point, which I would like to see stressed, is difficult to explain. I hope that the IRFWF gives special attention to the transcendental dimension of the human existence. I would not like to use the term "God", because my Buddhist friends prefer to speak of "the transcendental dimension of our existence ". The secular culture believes that only what is opened to our physical senses is the world that exists. I believe that they err much. The world, which I experience today, is only one dimension of the universe. The universe has still many other dimensions and we are for the moment not in the situation to experience it although many have tried to give scientific descriptions of these other dimensions. We, who rely on a religious inheritance and who are always conscious of this other dimension, must now move away from our traditional positions in order to give this Transcendence to the world. Transcendence does not mean to exceed space and time. There are people who believe that real reality exists only outside of the time. This extreme and the belief that only this world is "material" are both wrong. Transcendence is something that penetrates occasionally into our world, and its range is the culture. With culture I mean religion as well as science and technology. Culture is what humans make with nature by means of science, technology, art, literature, music, dance, drama, Liturgy and ritual. All this is culture, and in these cultural forms the Transcendence breaks through to us. The transcendental cannot be seized intellectually. It must be seized by symbols and rituals.
Our institutions must be transformed
I would like to see this dimension of the transcendental one and its relationship with the world that opens to our senses as an emphasis of the IRFWF in the future. That means, for example, we must examine the institutions which we have created. Let us have a look at our system of education. This educating system, which we developed in Europe, is very destructive. It does not promote all abilities, which lie in a person except science, technology, production, and manipulation of the environment. There must still be different aspects in the education system in order to stimulate the transcendental in the culture. The educating system must be changed, so that culture can be creative. The national institutions, which are secular today, must be transformed likewise radically in order to permit cultural creativity. Our entire academic mechanisms and universities are prisoners of the secular, and have become places where the search for the reality takes place in ways that are not even endorsed by the modern science any more. Another example is healing. Our western medicine causes very much damage to people. It saves people, but it also adds much damage. The welfare methods of the world must be reexamined, so that in the long run the transcendental can manifest itself also by healing. I would like to experience that many of these transformations within the range of the culture and in the social, educational, national, political, economic institutions to take place, so that the transcendental can manifest itself. It cannot manifest itself by lectures, but only by a transformation of the institutions and by culture. Science and technology can serve as an important tool with this process to facilitate but only as a tool, which humans are to use and not as dominating masters.
4) To know the mental tradition of others
The fourth important range, on which one concentrated in the
last 20 years, is the range of the "mental education" or "mental training".
In each religion the doctrines and dogmas are less important than the mental
education. We often concentrate on the intellectual content of a religion
and not enough on the mental education, which is to help us to get along in
the life. This is the more important part of a religion than what the writings
state or which theologians of the different religions represent. We should
not only discuss this education, but also experience this mental education
other people. Only if someone participates in a mental training, like Yoga
Meditation, Zen Meditation, the Namaz of the Islam we understand other religions.
By participating, we experience another dimension. Many of the people, which
face the inter-religious dialogue very sceptically, were deeply impressed
by such an experience. One of the most valuable aspects at the first meeting
of the world religions in the year 1985 was that each group practiced their
own mental training in their own way. This left a stronger impact than all
the official responding together. Sometimes we must live two, three days
or even a whole week in a community, in order to learn to know their Spirituality.
Only if we "immerse" totally into the inter-religious life of a community,
the meeting becomes fruitful. Then we begin to develop mutual confidence
and see the possibilities for a better future of mankind.