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Why we should promote interfaith dialogue

By Admin

Added 4th February 2016 09:21 AM

With the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, in the name of Judaism, Christians were destined for a period of persecutions that lasted until the edict of Milan (313 AD) by Emperor Constantine. He did so in a bid to ensure peace and stability in the Roman Empire.

Why we should promote interfaith dialogue

Msgr. John Wynand Katende is a priest

With the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, in the name of Judaism, Christians were destined for a period of persecutions that lasted until the edict of Milan (313 AD) by Emperor Constantine. He did so in a bid to ensure peace and stability in the Roman Empire.



By Msgr. John Wynand Katende

February 1 saw Christians and Muslims coming together under the hospices of Nile Dialogue Platform (NDP) to observe World Inter-faith Harmony Week under the theme: "Spreading harmony and tolerance among followers of the three monotheistic faiths and all world religions".

NDP promotes peace through interfaith and intercultural dialogue initiatives. Jerusalem, a name that stands for peace and home to the three major monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) has, since time immemorial, witnessed more violence among monotheists than peace.

With the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, in the name of Judaism, Christians were destined for a period of persecutions that lasted until the edict of Milan (313 AD) by Emperor Constantine. He did so in a bid to ensure peace and stability in the Roman Empire.

At a later stage in history, Christianity also took its turn to persecute Jews basing on the Biblical text by the Jews as they were killing Jesus: "His blood be upon us and on our children" (Matthew 27:24-25). It is believed that Adolf Hitler's Nazi theory of racism in Germany in 1937 that saw the massacre of six million Jews was inspired by the same anti-Semitism spirit. Anti-Semitism has, however, been officially condemned by the Catholic Church. It would, surely, be irrational, prejudicial and even hatred-motivated to make a blanket condemnation on all Jews. Islam and Christianity have also had a big share in the story of religious wars, in a bid to gain more numbers and territory. The Battle of Lepanto (1571) between the Allied Christian forces and the Ottoman Turks (Muslims) is a classic example. The 2003 invasion of Iraq by America and allies is said to have played a major role in the rise of an Islamic State militant group.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) is another militant group that threatens harmonious co-existence in the region.

The Boko-Haram, an Islamic extremist group based in north-eastern Nigeria, advocates a strict form of Sharia law.

The story of the conversion of Paul of Tarsus (Turkey) has lessons for all believers. Convinced that he was serving the cause of God, Paul undertook to eliminate Christianity in its infancy beginning from Jerusalem. But on hearing a voice calling from heaven: "Saul, why are you persecuting me?" Paul learnt that by persecuting people of another religion he was actually doing so to God Himself.

After a three-year retreat in the Arabian Desert, Paul fully converted into a true servant of God and staunch Christian.

For Paul, true religion meant a personal relationship with God and with others rather than strict adherence to a system of beliefs and laws; hence the great law of love. Hating others on religious grounds would only signal prejudice, arrogance and ignorance (Acts 9: 1-19).

Marking the 25th anniversary of the first Assisi interfaith gathering for peace, Pope Benedict XVI challenged the followers of religions not to consider God as their own property, as if he belonged to them, in such a way that they feel vindicated in using force against others. He went on to appeal to all believers to purify their faith so that God, the true God, becomes accessible.

Hasyim Muzadi, the general secretary of the Indonesia-based International Conference of Islamic Scholars, said that people of different faiths must work together to build on something they all share: "a hope for the creation of human harmony, justice, prosperity and an improved standard of human life." Efforts in comparative religion and interfaith dialogue should be introduced in all institutions of learning and at the level of the family as means of realising harmonious living.

The writer is a priest

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