During the Philippine Conference on the New Evangelization last January, I had the opportunity to co-host with the Archdiocese of Manila’s Assistant Minister for Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs, Fr. Richard Babao, a segment called “Weaving of Hearts on Interfaith Dialogue.”
We had meaningful conversations with representatives of the Church of the Latter-day Saints, Buddhism, Islam and the Evangelical Church. It was a good discovery of what we all had in common–the desire to share the love of God and to spread the message of peace through our specific religious contexts.
In relation with other faith groups and with indigenous peoples, there is a great temptation to claim absolute possession of the Truth, closing our doors to the presence of God in various creative ways. There is an inclination towards creating barriers, rather than building connections.
In his pastoral letter dated December 1, 2019, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines President Archbishop Romulo Valles pointed out, “An open, honest, respectful, loving dialogue of life, prayer and action, is the only way towards harmony in community. At stake are the great values of peace and harmony particularly in areas of armed conflict, solidarity in the struggle for social change, unity in healing social ills, integrity and social justice in our land.”
He called for four areas of dialogue. The first is the dialogue of life which calls for sharing of experiences, adversities and aspirations. The second is the dialogue of action where people of all faiths come together to pursue concrete initiatives of alleviating human suffering and helping restore the dignity of humankind. The third is the dialogue of theological exchange, where, in a respectful manner, there is a sharing of the wealth of spiritual beliefs and values. The fourth one is the dialogue of religious experience in which there is learning from one another’s ways of searching for God, and meaning in areas such as prayer and contemplation.
To overcome our pride and tendency to be rigid or narrow-minded, let us ask for the grace of humility in opening our hearts to encountering the presence of God in other faith groups. This Year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples invites us to be attuned to the Holy Spirit and to see His movement in others too. Exodus 3:5 reminds us of this internal posture: “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”