A conversation on Dialogue PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 08 August 2011 14:08

There is a group that goes by the name of Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) that is based in Cotabato City but has an office here in Zamboanga City. It has for its vision a network of civil society organizations that is able to “sustain working together to achieve  peace, justice and human development in [the] context of [a] plural society”.  I was honored to have been invited to a “conversation”  it sponsored on July 23, 2011 at the Grand Astoria Hotel on  the topic  of dialogue, from the Muslim and Christian perspectives.

Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, PIME, of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement and Prof. Alzad Satar  were the speakers on the topic of dialogue from the Christian and Muslim perspectives, respectively. Fr. D’Ambra  said that dialogue is not just knowing and respecting  the commonalities and differences of people’s religions but more important is that in spite of following different religions mankind is called to love one another. This call to love means that we live  together in peace and harmony with each other. This is the essence of dialogue – dialogue using the  “ language of love, the language of the heart”.

Prof. Satar in a very convincing manner cited verses from the Qur’an  which called on Muslims to live in peace with those who are not Muslims but are believers in the One God. Prof. Satar said that there are persons who, in pursuit of their own agenda,  teach  followers of Islam to think that they are to stay away from those  who are not Muslims. The position is actually contrary to the position taken by the 138 Muslim scholars and clerics who wrote A Common Word Between Us and You, a letter addressed to Pope Benedict XVI and leaders of other Christian religions.

A Common Word presents the position that  Islam and Christianity both teach their followers the two greatest commandments – love of God and love of neighbor. The letter also points out that Muslims and Christians together make up the majority population of the world and that there is little prospect of peace in our world if Muslims and Christians cannot, or will not, live in peace with one another. While the letter first came out in October2007 a significant number of people in both religions still do not know much about this important document nor the ensuing dialogue between Muslim and Christian religious leaders that has taken place since then.

The question and answer period that followed the presentations of Fr. D’Ambra and Prof. Satar was a lively one, bringing out ideas and reactions  which indicated the openness to each other of those who were in attendance. A striking point  for me was the consideration that in the practice of our respective religions some cultural but not faith-based elements creep in ,  which tend  to give the wrong impression to others who are not of our own religion.

The road of dialogue is a long one and not always smooth. But it is heartening that people are beginning their personal journeys on this road. --REMEDIOS F. MARMOLEÑO