SOMETHING that the Roman Catholic Church, the World Council of Churches (WCC) and World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), as well as scholars and believers from African traditional religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism and Tenrikyo, happily commemorate every year is the publication of the document “Christian witness in a multi-religious world: Recommendations for conduct.”
This document was published on June 28, 2011, a joint venture by the Roman Catholic Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID), the WCC and WEA, with the participation of believers belonging to other religions as well.
Last Tuesday (June 14) representatives of author organizations and religions attended a meeting in Rome to celebrate the publication’s 5th anniversary. PCID hosted the celebration. The commemorative event’s aim was to reaffirm important issues of common concern about the document.
The keynote address by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, PCIED president, was followed by a video message from Rev. Shanta Premavardhana, currently president of the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education, Chicago, USA, and previously a staff member of the WCC, on the history and evolution of the document.
Short reports on the implementation of the document were presented by the co-author institutions: Bishop Miguel Àngel Ayuso Guixot for the PCID, Clare Amos and Kyriaki Avtzi for the WCC, and Prof. Thomas K. Johnson for the WEA.
“The document through the eyes of religious neighbors” was the title of the first session during which representatives of African traditional religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism and Tenrikyo presented briefly their vision of the document.
In the next session, officials of the Roman Curia and the Italian Episcopal Conference offered their contribution on “Promoting a culture of dialogue and encounter: Relevance of the Christian witness document.”
The aim of the final session, “Looking forward: Responding together to contemporary global realities,” was to reach agreement on some major points emerging from the Workshop. This aim was met.
The duty and right of all believers to witness to his/her faith was reaffirmed, as well as the necessity for mutual respect and interreligious dialogue. This implies the freedom of religion, to be respected by all and guaranteed by the states through appropriate laws.
The participants encouraged the organizations responsible for the original document to consider how the “spirit” of the document could be extended to enable interreligious discussions on issues such as the ethics of witness and freedom of religion. They expressed their gratitude to the PCID for organizing the event and offered their good wishes to the Muslim participants for Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr.
This may be, to those who have lost their faith or at least their original interest in matters of religion and uniting all believers, a “Who-cares” event. But we, in The Times, think paying attention to efforts like this is to remind men and women of their human solidarity as an important way of preparing ourselves to morally, spiritually, intellectually and even physically confront the threats posed by terrorists.