Why do Catholics need to dialogue with the major world religions?
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.
In exploring the five major religions
(Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity) in my course at Georgetown
University, 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. The class 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 11: "...The eve of the Year
2000 will provide a great opportunity, especially in view of the events of recent
decades, for interreligious dialogue....ln this dialogue the Jews and Muslims
ought to have a pre-eminent place" (The Coming Third Millennium).
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