On 21 September 2015 I gave input on interreligious dialogue (IRD) to the annual Columban Rectors’ meeting, held this year in Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao province in southern Philippines. The Rectors are in charge of the Columban seminarians’ formation programmes in the Philippines, Fiji, Korea, Chile and Peru.
The purpose of the input was to highlight the importance of interreligious dialogue in today’s world and to encourage those with responsibility for the formation of future Columban missionaries that this missionary aspect be fully incorporated into their seminary training.
I began by setting the context of how IRD has become an integral part of the mission of the Church. The beginning can be traced back to Vatican II and in particular the ground-breaking document, Nostra Aetate: Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (1965) which is truly a revolutionary document. In the subsequent 50 years to today, each succeeding Pope, as well as the Pontifical Council of Interreligious Dialogue (PCID), have issued numerous documents on the centrality of this ministry for today’s reality.
Columban missionaries have also consistently affirmed its importance, seen most clearly in the statements issued after the General Assembly (GA) which is held every six years. The most recent GA, held in 2012, states:
Columban Mission today engages with people of many faiths in an increasingly multi-cultural and interreligious word. Dialogue of life and action, as well as theological reflection, in solidarity with the poor and exploited earth, deepens our faith and communion with ourselves and others. (Called to Communion, p. 14).
I also pointed out that the Columban Guidelines for Initial Formation have as their goal that:
at the end of the initial formation process, the student will have acquired knowledge of the phenomenon of religion and of the major world religions so that he will be able to have a vital dialogue with peoples of other religions. (405)
I then introduced the new IRD website which was launched in August 2015, going through each section and highlighting its content and how it might be used with the students.
I also introduced the new resource Manual for IRD produced specifically by the IRD Network to help Columbans who are or are planning to be engaged in IRD.
Finally, I shared my own experience of being involved in IRD in Pakistan and the insights and understanding I have gained.
My hope is that future Columban priests and lay missionaries will have the confidence and competence to engage with peoples of other faiths and work collaboratively for the good of all.