issue carries an
imprimatur from the
Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
by Dr. Diana
are faced today with challenges the Church has not seen since the
first century. The most significant challenge is the growing number
of religions, many of which have attained a significant presence throughout
the world, even in countries once predominantly Christian. The challenge
for the Church in the early days was to bring the gospel to countries
which had never heard the liberating message of Christ. Today, by
contrast, we face the rapid growth of diverse religions, some new,
others centuries old.
and old are making a greater impact on the United States than ever
before. We encounter them through the media and also through new immigrants.
People coming from the Middle East and Africa, in particular, bring
with them their faiths and cultures. These faiths appeal to a number
of Christians unhappy with their own churches and to some people who
have been indifferent to religion altogether and have lived as if
God does not exist.
how should we respond to these new challenges? On the one hand, it
is crucial that we remain firm in our own faith and secure in the
knowledge that Christianity is still a universal religion with faithful
in almost every country in the world, most of them living in peace
and harmony with persons of other faiths. On the other hand, it is
important that we become more conversant with believers of other faiths.
The immediate purpose of dialogue is not to convert them to Christianity
but to begin to learn about them and the role that their faith plays
in their lives, just as Christianity does in our own. The dawn of
the new millennium is the ideal moment to call on the Holy Spirit
to help us all come together in a common dialogue that highlights
the ways in which we are alike rather than those in which we differ.
University I teach an introductory religion course that I have shaped
as a study of the five major religions as they are lived in the United
States. The course has two purposes: to help students who are Christian
to better understand their own faith and the challenges present at
this time in our Church's history; secondly, to expose Christian students
to other faiths and students of other faiths to their own beliefs
as well as those of Christianity.
are many world religions. But the five that I deal with are commonly
recognized as the major ones: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and
dating from 2500 B.C.E., includes a vast variety of beliefs and many
sects to which the majority of the people of India belong. According
to Hindu belief, individuals are born into one of five castes (social
classes) based on their good or bad deeds (karma) in a past life.
Through meditation and righteous living the believer may advance to
another caste in his or her next life. Mohandas Gandhi is one of many
modern Hindu leaders to have stressed the necessity of combining the
spiritual life with social justice.
was founded in India during the 6th century B.C.E. by Siddhartha
Gautama, known as the Buddha or Enlightened One. It teaches the practice
of meditation and the observance of moral precepts. It also holds
that people are reincarnated, and that their lives are happy or sad
depending on their actions (karma) in a previous life. Basic doctrines
include the "four noble truths," which emphasize the existence and
cause of suffering, and the "eightfold noble path" revolving around
right views, speech, action. Buddhism flourishes in Asia but has greatly
increased in popularity in the Western world through Zen Buddhism,
which teaches meditation to achieve "sudden enlightenment."
began with Abraham and developed about 2000 B.C.E. among wandering
Semitic tribes. It teaches belief in one Goda loving, merciful and
forgiving deity who has entered into a special covenant with the "chosen
people." In return for the care and protection God has promised the
Israelites, they are to follow God's laws, including those delivered
to Moses at Sinai. Judaism teaches that the Messiah is still to come.
Obedience to God and his laws is paramount but observed differently
by Orthodox, Reform and Conservative Jews.
originated around 610 C.E. in what is now Saudi Arabia with God's
revelations through the Prophet Mohammed. It remains the dominant
faith of Arab and non-Arab nations in the Middle East, excluding Israel,
as well as large portions of Asia and Africa. Muslims worship one
God, Allah, who is revealed to them in the Koran, their sacred text.
Mohammed, who was born in Mecca, is seen as Allah's prophet and messenger.
Their faith provides guidelines and rules applying to all aspects
of life, and their God is awesome, just, loving and merciful. All
Muslims are seen as having basic duties, including professing faith
in Allah and in his messenger, prescribed prayers performed five times
a day, the giving of alms, fasting during the ninth month of the Muslim
year, attempting at least one pilgrimage to Mecca. Heaven awaits believers
and hell nonbelievers. There are two major branches of Islam: the
Sunni and the Shiites. Muslims believe that Abraham was the first
to receive God's revelation and recognize Jesus as a prophet.
of course, began with God made man in Jesus Christ and his ministry
around 26-29 C.E. With his death and miraculous resurrection, his
followers began to proclaim him the long-awaited Messiah sought by
the Jews who promised the coming of the kingdom of God and salvation
for all who believed. Jesus is seen as the new covenant between God
and all of humanity with his new law of love superseding the laws
are some striking commonalities among these five major world religions.
Followers of Judaism, Islam and Christianity are often called "the
people of the book" because they share a heritage which is handed
down in a set of scriptures and trace their origins to the Patriarch
Abraham. Buddhism, Islam and Christianity are also called historical
religions, because each has a historical founder: Siddhartha, Mohammed,
these world religions in my college course my purpose is not to view
world religions through a Christian lens as such but to help my students
look at followers of major religious traditions as persons of faith
who are open to dialogue. Giving students the freedom to articulate
their understandings while providing them with a foundation upon which
to base their explorations usually results in not a diminishment,
but a strengthening of their faith. They learn more about themselves
and are better able to understand the role different religions have
played and continue to play in the growth and development of the U.S.
is an effort to live up to the mandate of Vatican II to engage in
interreligious dialogue that promotes greater harmony and understanding
among the many peoples and nations of this rapidly shrinking world.
Today, as we prepare to welcome a new millennium, dialogue also addresses
the hopes outlined by Pope John Paul II : "...The eve of the Year
2000 will provide a great opportunity, especially in view of the events
of recent decades, for interreligious dialogue....In this dialogue
the Jews and Muslims ought to have a preeminent place" (The Coming
work of the Spirit
of the role and significance of the Holy Spirit within the world is
critical. The challenge for my studentsindeed, for all of usis
to recognize the role the Holy Spirit plays, which is that of unity,
the building up of a community of love. We believe, as Christians,
that the Holy Spirit was sent by the Father in the name of the Son
to enable all of humanity to share intimately in the life of God.
That sharing carries with it a responsibility for humanity to help
maintain that community in spirit and in truth, modeling it on the
Holy Trinity itself.
we may differ in many waysskin color, hair texture, language, gender,
intellectual and physical abilities, and even religious beliefs. Yet
we are still one. For, as Pope John Paul II has noted, elements of
sanctification and truth can be found outside the visible confines
of the Church itself as presently constituted. The Spirit is the source
of union with God and with one another in Christ, but is also the
source of plurality. The Spirit unites without destroying or diminishing
real difference. The Spirit shows us that the diversity of gifts within
the Christian and broader human community is a blessing for us all.
we still see evidence of the temptation to return to a time of supposed
security where anyone not of our faith was seen as the enemy. As we
enter into the Third Millennium of Christ, we must recognize that
a ghetto mentality of "us" against "them" is not viable. The teachings
of the Church call for discussion and collaboration with members of
other faiths. We are encouraged not to flee or condemn but, while
witnessing to our own faith and way of life, to also acknowledge,
preserve, and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among
people of other faiths as well as in their social lives and cultures.
of Jubilee and the years leading up to it are a time of preparation,
self-examination, acknowledgment of faults. It is a time to recognize
how the Holy Spirit has participated in human history, providing hope
for the future even in the face of a harsh past and present. It is
a time to recommit ourselves to building a new and more just world
with our brothers and sisters of other faiths.
for us today is to allow the Spirit to move as the Spirit will, rather
than to attempt to capture and stifle it. We have today, as Christian
faithful, the unique opportunity to engage our fellow human beings
of different faiths in an open, honest and loving dialogue which can
only enrich both our lives and our faith rather than threaten them.
For an unquestioned faith is no faith at all and at the first challenge
will shatter and crumble into dust.
Spirit does not close doors, but opens them. The Holy Spirit enables
us to speak in every tongue to those with whom we share a common humanity,
even if not a common faith. The Holy Spirit enables us to see the
kernels of truth present in other religions, as their believers see
them, and allows us to build upon those shared understandings. The
Holy Spirit shines forth in the most unlikely places, renewing the
face of the earth and making it whole once again while preserving
the diversity of plurality.
remains with us in the breath of life God sent forth in the form of
the Holy Spirit. That Spirit is present in all human beings, different
though they may be in their expressions of it. We are called to recognize
the face of God shining forth through the eyes of a Muslim, a Jew
or the follower of an indigenous religion. The Holy Spirit calls us
to work for greater unity, love and respect among the whole human
family, especially as the new millennium approaches. With God all
things are possible.*
Hayes is associate professor of theology at Georgetown University
and an attorney. She also teaches in the Black Catholic Studies program
at Xavier University of New Orleans.
Paul II's friend Jerzy Kluger
two boysone Jewish, the other Christianwere friends, neighbors,
classmates in Wadowice, Poland. Together they played soccer,
visited one another's families, did their homework. Until World
War II separated them, that is.
The Jewish boy
went on to serve in the Polish army following the German invasion
of his country. He survived but lived to see most of his family
die in Nazi death camps. Meanwhile, his Christian friend undertook
studies in an underground seminary in Poland, where the German
occupiers had cracked down on the Church.
But the bonds
of love and respect that Jerzy Kluger and Karol Wojtyla had
formed as youngsters in wartime Poland were too strong to succumb
to separation, distance and differences. After almost 30 years,
the two men were reunited in Rome. It was there Mr. Kluger had
settled after the war and where, by chance, he heard a news
report about a young Polish archbishop who had spoken eloquent
words during a session of the Second Vatican Council. After
a call by Mr. Kluger to the Vatican, the two menone a businessman,
the other an archbishop who would go on to be poperesumed
The story of
their remarkable relationship, told in the 1998 book The
Hidden Pope, does not end with their reunion in Rome in
1965. Since then, Mr. Kluger and the man who went on to become
John Paul II have worked, each in his own way, to strengthen
Jewish-Catholic relations. Mr. Kluger is credited with laying
the groundwork for the opening of diplomatic channels between
Israel and the Vatican. In 1994, he stood next to his boyhood
friend at a Vatican ceremony welcoming the first Israeli ambassador
to the Holy See.
Some years before,
Mr. Kluger, returning to Poland for the first time, brought
with him a special message from the Church's first Polish pope
on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Nazi destruction
of the synagogue in Wadowice. It was the same synagogue that
Karol Wojtyla had visited with his young friend many years earlier
to hear a noted Jewish tenor.
between Jerzy Kluger and Pope John Paul II is a model for all
of us as we seek understanding and openness between people who
share commonalities as well as differences. Pope John Paul II
has said: "As Christians and Jews, following the example of
the faith of Abraham, we are called to be a blessing for the
world. This is the common task awaiting us. It is therefore
necessary for us, Christians and Jews, to be first a blessing
to one another."
new sculpture of Francis of Assisi, a saint singled out by Time
magazine several years ago as one of the 10 greatest people
of the second millennium, now stands in the Peace Park of the
University for Peace in Costa Rica. The sculpture honoring Francis
stands as a symbol to the world of the possibilities for peace
and human dignity in the new millennium. Dedication of the new
bust was held on December 10, 1998, the 50th anniversary of
the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
officials invited Franciscans International at the U.N. to commission
the sculpture in light of Francis' vision of peace for all of
creation. In turn, Anneta Duveen, long-time Secular Franciscan,
was invited to sculpt the new work. Mrs. Duveen sees her opportunity
to depict St. Francis as her "millennium gift." For her, Francis
is "an exciting, adventurous saint" who "simplifies things for
us" and yet "keeps us on the cutting edge."
for Peace, created by the U.N. General Assembly in 1980, promotes
non-violent solutions to conflicts and seeks to help create
a true culture of peace in the world. Meanwhile, the sculpture
of St. Francis will help reinforce this message well into the