Archbishop Goh speaks to Methodists on interfaith relations
How do we reach out to those who rely not on God, but on science and reason to make choices in their lives.
This was one question posed to Archbishop William Goh during the question-and-answer segment of the Trinity Annual Conference held at Barker Road Methodist Centre on March 31.
Archbishop Goh was invited by the Methodist community to speak on the topic Inter-Faith Relationship: Peace Making And Bridge Building.
“Normally for people with no religion, I will push them to ask ultimate questions: ‘What is the purpose of life? Why are we here? What happens after death?’” replied Archbishop Goh.
“Reason can tell you the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. Only faith can tell you the ‘why’.”
“Reason can tell you how the earth came into being and how a person is born, but reason alone cannot tell you why it happens. Only faith can give you the meaning and purpose,” said Archbishop Goh.
Another question was how would a Christian who is not strong in his faith avoid causing misconceptions when having a dialogue with a non-Christian?
To which Archbishop Goh replied: “People who are weak in their faith should avoid dialogue with people from other faiths. They should instead speak with their actions and serve with a sincere love.
“Through your actions the non-Christians would want to know why you are always happy serving others and then you will tell them it’s because of Jesus.”
During his speech to members of the Methodist community, Archbishop Goh offered four principles that would help Christians engage people of other faiths.
“They are brotherhood, commonality, distinctiveness and dialogue,” he said.
On brotherhood, Archbishop Goh noted that “everyone is a child of God.”
“Although we come from different religions, we all want the same thing, which is love and peace,” he said.
The second principle, commonality, means to focus on the things Christians and people of other faiths have in common, said Archbishop Goh.
“There should be mutual respect among everyone so as to find commonality among all religions. Therefore engage in a prudent way. See where we can walk together and empower one another,” he said.
On distinctiveness, Archbishop Goh said that “every religion has a history. That history leads to each religion being distinct.”
“There must always be respect for the traditions, history and experiences of other faiths because who we are today is dependent exactly on those experiences,” he said.
Lastly, Archbishop Goh said that dialogue is the only way to bring about a better understanding of faiths.
“There are different levels of dialogue beginning with the dialogue of prayer, the dialogue of love and charity, dialogue of action and lastly, the dialogue of doctrine.
“These levels of dialogue are dependent on the comfort levels of the people,” he said.
Speaking to CatholicNews after the event, members of the Methodist community shared their thoughts.
Rev Gabriel Liew from the Kampong Kapor Methodist Church said he felt inspired listening to Archbishop Goh’s talk.
“The different levels of dialogue which he mentioned provides so many ways to reach out to non-Christians and the non-religious. By offering friendship, by sharing our experiences, by listening and by caring,” he said.
Mr Raymond Chow, 52, from the Covenant Community Methodist Church, said that the talk “has opened my mind to the other religions and looking at them from a new perspective”.
By Jared Ng