By Sister Wendy Ooi. fsp

SINGAPORE - Since 1964 there has been a general awareness in the church that God's salvation is not limited to the Christian faith, and that other religions are not rivals to the church or instruments of Satan, but paths of salvation, advises Jesuit Father Thomas Michel. "Nostra Aetate" (Declaration on the Relation of the Church to non-Christian Religions) was published in 1964.

Right, Jesuit Father Thomas Michel advises the audience that other religions are not rivals to the church or instruments of Satan but paths of salvation.

Father Thomas, an expert in Islamic affairs and current Ecumenical Secretary for the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, was speaking to nearly 100 lay and religious representatives from parishes, Catholic schools and institutions, who packed the auditorium of Catholic Welfare Services on Jun 16.

They were attending a full-day seminar organized by the Inter-Religious and Ecumenical Dialogue Archdiocesan Council and the Singapore Pastoral Institute on the themes "Commitment to Inter-Religious Dialogue" and "Finding God in Other Religions".

Father Thomas said the church has evolved in its commitment to dialogue with other faiths against a backdrop of big changes in the world including polarization, globalization and secularization.

Citing church documents published since "Nostra Aetate", Father Thomas showed how the understanding and practice of dialogue has progressed from mere discussion to a sharing of life with other religions ("Redemptoris Missio", 1992).

This sharing can take place on different levels:

- Being (dialogue of life)

- Doing (dialogue of action, working together for common good)

- Ideas (learning, studying, examining issues, theology)

- Experience (of God, prayer, insight, inner awakening).

(continued on page 2)

Interreligious dialogue, Father Thomas reminded the participants, is part of the evangelizing mission of the church. However, the challenge is not between a church in dialogue and a church that is evangelizing. Rather it is between a church that is both in dialogue and evangelizing and one that is closed in on itself, living in a spiritual ghetto, and not interested in living and cooperating with neighbours of other faiths.

In the second part of the seminar, Father Thomas illustrated how God can be discovered in other faiths by focusing on selected scriptures  from various faith traditions and highlighting the main concepts of each religion.

Joseph Phay, PPC member at St. Anne's Church as well as an active member of the Inter-Religious Confidence Circle of Punggol, felt affirmed by the seminar. In practising dialogue as a sharing of life on the "doing" level, he explains, "We focus on common goals, a particular project, something good for the residents of the area, some social aspect. We don't go to depth - like scripture reading - we leave that to the experts."

Ginnie Ang, catechist and PPC member at Church of St. Bernadette was glad she was able to participate in the seminar. She commented, "It's very enlightening, [and] gives you a different perspective of different religions - same in many ways but also with differences."

Mercy Mallari, also a PPC member at Church of St. Bernadette, said, "It's wonderful to know the different religions and the culture, moral values that are there."

Franciscan novice Brother Randall Ng shared, "Shows how much we have in common with each other. I enjoyed the prayers from the other religions and am able now to appreciate the spirituality behind the prayers."

After spending the day appreciating other faith traditions, the seminar concluded with the celebration of the Eucharist, a gift unique to Catholics, which the participants were invited to treasure and appreciate.

Share this post

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter