I’ve often considered how much of Sister Pat’s wisdom comes from her 20 years as a missionary in war-torn Central America.
For maybe 5 years, I’ve had the privilege and enormous pleasure of gathering regularly with several hundred people involved in Catholic mission work. The US Catholic Mission Association’s annual conference always makes me think about new ideas, experience unfamiliar cultures, ask myself important questions, pray in beautiful forms, and enjoy time with people who merrily and gracefully keep life in perspective.
We gathered in Los Angeles this year. I had planned to share more of the experience here, and to do it sooner – but my life isn’t creating spaces for that, so I figure the Spirit is my editor and just wants me to pass along some highlights.
The theme was inter-religious dialogue.
The background awareness, highlighted by many speakers, is that half the world – HALF THE WORLD – belongs to the family of Abraham (Christians, Jews, and Muslims). There's s a powerful and practical opportunity in the deeply shared values of Catholic social teaching and Islamic social teaching. Islam insists on charity that involves everyone.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick on inter-religious dialogue (which he’s done a lot of in the past few years, particularly with Islamic leaders):
- When we grow frustrated and disappointed, then we should put ourselves aside and let Love Itself speak. (citing Pope Benedict XVI)
- When we go to war with them, we lose. We don’t convert them to dialogue through bombs.
- A wide group of Muslim leaders issued the Amman Message, a document setting forth fundamental aspects of unity on which both Muslims, and Muslim-Christian dialogue, can build. Despite their efforts (and Cardinal McCarrick’s), the US media paid no attention to this effort.
Rabbi Hillel Cohn
On interreligious dialogue (which he’s done a lot of): starting thoughts - important to hold onto throughout dialogue:
- Know what hurts the other. The meaning of love is to know what gives pain to the other, and what gives joy. (Jokes and stereotypes hurt.)
- Reject the notion that one’s religion is the absolute truth to the exclusion of all others. Faith is different from knowledge.
- Don’t say “I know how you feel.” Empathy is good but has limits.
- Know that no major religion is monolithic, so don’t look at others as monolithic.
- Religions evolve; what we once thought true may not be true for all time.
- Sanctity of life
- Repairing the world
- Centrality of reason and learning
- Supremacy of family life
- Actions far more important than beliefs
- Survival of the Jewish people
- Being an exemplary human being (a Mensch)
Dr. Amir Hussain, professor at Loyola Marymount University, on inter-religious dialogue (he has lots of experience):
- What do I know?
- What do I admire or respect in the other? -- And do these first two well and thoroughly before attempting -
- What do I hate in the other?
- In dialogue, power differences matter. US Muslims are 4-5% of the population – comparable to Asian Christians.
- “One who submits / surrenders to God”
- The questions for US Muslims now are the ones US Catholics faced until 50 years ago.
- The Q’uran says that interreligious dialog comes from God; we learn from each other.
- The Holy Spirit
- Honoring Mary
- Great commandment
Okay, that’s chapter 1. Some overlaps with the kinds of dialogue we've been talking about here, aren't there? I particularly like the starting points offered by both Rabbi Cohn and Dr. Hussain. More to come.