Fr. Hermes Bajao Sabud, SM - Superior of our Marist Community in Ranong, Thailand, has written this Article for us. The full title is: "Marist Commission for Inter-Religious Dialogue and Reconciliation (MCIRDR)"
A missionary Church: "Dialogue is mission, and mission is dialogue." This expression has been inspiring many missionaries to commit and engage in promoting good relationships among peoples of different cultures and faith traditions. Ad Gentes states that "The pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature, since it is from the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit that she draws her origin, in accordance with the decree of God the Father."In this statement, the Vatican II delegates were convinced that mission is a dialogical relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is in this relationship that missionaries become participants in God's work. However, dialogue and mission are sometimes difficult to understand, and may even have some negative connotations.In fact, the document "Dialogue and Proclamation" from the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue (PCIRD) has already mentioned this difficulty by stating that "The practice of dialogue raises problems in the minds of many."For some people, especially those who are not open to engage in relating to other faith traditions, dialogue is a hindrance to the proclamation of the Gospel. On the other hand, others might understand mission as the process of conversion or a strategy for proselytizing, and forget that other religions are also instruments to create a space for the encounter between God and his people.
Imam, Larry Sabud, Prasit-MAF, Imam, John Larsen - SG , Kevin Medilo, Gerard Hall, Michael Jacques
Creating a space: Creating a space for others who belong to other cultures and faith traditions is often a challenging process for a missionary to venture into. On the part of the missionary, it demands a deep level of understanding and spiritual experience in his/her own faith tradition. One can never create a space genuinely for others, unless he/she is comfortable with his/her own cultural and religious belonging. The process of becoming at home with one's own belonging is not always easy, but it is not impossible to achieve in reality. During the public ministry of Jesus, one can see how comfortable he is in his own belonging – his identity. This gives him the capacity to create a space, and welcome other people regardless of who they are culturally and religiously. John chapter 4:4-26 presents the encounter of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, which is an affirmation of what it means to be at home with one's own belonging. Regardless of the culture and experience of the Samaritan woman, Jesus comfortably and genuinely created a space for her and respected her as she is.
Marists of IRD Commission at a Buddhist Monastery
An experience of dialogue: In the history of the church, in particular the experience of the many Marists in the different contexts of their mission, they created a space for others. They may not have been conscious of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue in the way they have related to others in their various ministries. However, their attitude and way of welcoming others was dialogical – a relationship based on mutual giving of oneself, respect and understanding. Perhaps, it is embedded in the Society of Mary's charism that it becomes natural for Marists to create a space for others without labeling or judging that may create a stain of discrimination. Nevertheless, the opposite is also experienced in different aspects of Marist mission, but the process of transformation into a more welcoming Marist missionary presence is also happening in the Marist world. The reality of this transformation has been concretely expressed during and after the 2017 General Chapter of the Society of Mary. What a grace and blessing!
A commitment to dialogue: The 2017 General Chapter "Statements and Decisions" of the Society of Mary no. 23 says that Marists "seek to respond to the needs of migrants and engage in ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue." As far as I know, this is the first time that the term "inter-religious dialogue" (IRD) has appeared in an official document of the Society of Mary. Although, in 2016, the term IRD was already in the "Statements and Decisions" of the District Chapter of the District of Asia. The document says "that the District of Asia continues to embrace inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue, thus contributing to the culture and religious context in Asia." Undoubtedly, these decisions and many other inter-religious and intercultural dialogue Marist initiatives around the globe have inspired our Superior General and his Council to establish the Marist Commission for Inter-Religious Dialogue and Reconciliation (MCIRDR). The commission will try to articulate the meaning of what it means to dialogue, both in the academic sense and actual living out of it in the contemporary context where cultural and religious pluralism is a reality.
At work: K. Medilo, L. Sabud, J. Larsen - SG, G. Hall, M. Jacques
Dialogue as a spirituality: From 23-25 April, 2019, the members of the MCIRDR, Fr. Kevin Medilo, Fr. Michael Jacques, and Fr. Hermes Sabud; together with Fr. John Larsen, the Superior General and Fr. Gerry Hall, the theological adviser to the commission met for the first time in Ranong, Thailand. The commission has been meeting through Skype conferencing since its establishment. During the meeting in Ranong, the members decided to take the following actions: 1) Active Marist presence in Social Media (blog/website/Facebook) in the area of Inter-religious Dialogue; 2) Support and encourage fellow Marists involved in inter-religious dialogue and reconciliation (e.g. Survey); and 3) Establish a formation programme for interreligious dialogue and reconciliation in partnership with Marists in Asia (IRD accompaniment).The meeting concluded with the hope that the commission would become a vehicle to inspire the whole Marist mission to commit to inter-religious and intercultural dialogue. This commitment to dialogue will only be real and sustainable when it is understood and lived out as a spirituality and not as a form of strategy. On the level of spirituality, dialogue is grounded in the Trinitarian relationship, in which God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit give totally to the other. It is in this relationship that Marists and all believers become sharers in the dialogical Trinitarian mission - the reason why "dialogue is mission, and mission is dialogue."