An interreligious dialogue in the service of world peace

Chaplain’s CornerPadre Rosinski

Padre Marcin Rosinski

In light of recent events in New Zealand, massacre of Christians in Nigeria, and hearing about the barbaric acts of terrorism that have occurred not only there but in other parts of the world, one may doubt the possibility of a coexistence among different cultures and religions.

It may make us wonder whether it is even possible to have a peaceful and tolerable coexistence with one another, without resorting to violence.

Is it possible to have an interreligious dialogue? I think Canada, which is a multicultural country with a variety of cultures, religions, customs, and where there exists a mutual acceptance among people of different beliefs, religions, races and languages, is a perfect example of how this does make sense and can be successful.

The United Nations former Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, the late Abdelfattah Amor, emphasized in his report (paragraphs 115-128) that dialogue between religions and civilizations is conducive to promoting tolerance, respect and understanding that is based on freedom of conscience and faith. Indeed, this dialogue contributes to the strengthening of peace and the mutual exchange of ideas and solidarity between people and nations in the world where divisions and extremism appear very quickly and tend to be used to the detriment of the unity of the human family.

The importance of a dialogue between religions, in the service of peace, is highlighted in a remarkable way in the “Decalogue of Assisi for Peace,” signed at the end of the Day of Prayer for Peace convened by Pope John Paul II on January 24, 2002. Amor mentioned the Decalogue in his report (paragraph 125). (For full text of the Letter of John Paul II to all the heads of state and government of the world and Decalogue of Assisi for peace see: content/john-paul-ii/en/ letters/2002/documents/ hf_ jp-ii_let_20020304_ capi-stato.html)

The Decalogue outlines the key issues that must be included in interreligious dialogue in order to advocate for world peace. This includes the following:

– Firm conviction that violence and terrorism are incompatible with the authentic spirit of religion;

– Educating people to mutual respect and esteem, in order to help bring about a peaceful and fraternal coexistence between people of different ethnic groups, cultures and religions;

– Frank and patient dialogue, refusing to consider our differences as an insurmountable barrier, but recognizing instead that to encounter the diversity of others can become an opportunity for greater reciprocal understanding;

– Forgiving one another for past and present errors and prejudices,
– To make every effort to create and consolidate, on the national and international levels, a world of solidarity and peace based on justice.

Encouraging an interreligious dialogue is the primary responsibility of religious world leaders. Most importantly, those who value and believe in the importance of an interreligious dialogue among humanity must make a conscious effort to incessantly advocate this belief in everyday conversation.

As noted by the Special Rapporteur, the quality of interreligious dialogue in our contemporary culture will largely depend on whether religious leaders will be able to appropriately approach the coexistence of unique cultural identities, which is the key feature of cultural pluralism.

Clearly, religious leaders have an important duty in reiterating the true spirit of religion; one that does not create divisions among people or justify violence and terrorism. They must repress the temptation in believers of falling into stereotypes and accepting erroneous interpretations of other religions. The obligation to stimulate interreligious dialogue relies primarily, but not solely, on religious leaders. Individual nations must create environments in which cultural pluralism may thrive. Considering the growing tensions between different ethnic groups in the world and in order to preserve the human family, it is in our best interest to allow for religious freedom and engage in an international interreligious dialogue.