Dialogue Between Religions in Asia Today

Resources »Eapr »East Asian Pastoral Review 2005 »Volume 42 2005 Number 1 2 »Dialogue Between Religions In Asia Today

By Michael Amaladoss, S.J.

Michael Amaladoss, S.J. is Professor of Theology at Vidyajyoti College of Theology in Delhi, and Director, Institute for Dialogue with Cultures and Religions, Chennai, India. A well-known international speaker and writer, he has written extensively on issues of mission, inculturation, multiculturalism and inter-religious cooperation, contemplation, and liberation theology. He is also a regular lecturer at the East Asian Pastoral Institute, Manila, Philippines.

It is 40 years since the promulgation of the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Other Religions (10 October 1965) by the Second Vatican Council. It was epoch making at that time. The Church was officially taking its first steps in relating positively to other religions.

The Church urges her sons (and daughters) to enter with prudence and charity into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions. Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians, also their social life and culture (Nostra Aetate, 2).

The tone may sound a little patronizing today. But the dialogical attitude it points to is more urgent than ever. Violence in the name of religion is greater and more widespread today. It seems necessary, therefore, not only to become aware of the new openings at the Council, but also to see how they have developed during the last 40 years.

The bases for such a positive attitude to other religions was laid in a number of documents at the Council. Though the axiom "There is no salvation outside the Church" was popularly asserted from the early centuries, the Document on the Church affirmed:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation (Lumen Gentium, 16).

The Document on the Church in the Modern World insisted that this salvation is not as rare as we might imagine:

Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery (Gaudium et Spes, 22).

Such a positive attitude is rooted in the "fountain-like love" of God. The Document on the Church’s Missionary Activity says:

God in his great and merciful kindness freely creates us and moreover, graciously calls us to share in his life and glory. He generously pours out, and never ceases to pour out, his divine goodness, so that he who is creator of all things might at last become "all in all" (1 Cor 15:28), thus simultaneously assuring his own glory and our happiness (Ad Gentes, 2).

This free gift of God is responded to by the free and responsible search of people, individually and in groups, for God. The Document on Religious Freedom affirms:

Everybody has the duty and consequently the right to seek the truth in religious matters… The search for truth, however, must be carried out in a manner that is appropriate to the dignity of the human person and his social nature… It is through his conscience that man sees and recognizes the demands of the divine law. He is bound to follow this conscience faithfully in all his activity so that he may come to God, who is his last end (Dignitatis Humanae, 3).

This common plan of God therefore constitutes humanity into a community that transcends all divisions, including religious ones. The Document on Other Religions says:

All men form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth (cf. Acts 17:26), and also because all share a common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all men (cf. Wis 8:1; Acts 14:17; Rom 2:6-7; 1 Tim 2:4) against the day when the elect are gathered together in the holy city which is illumined by the glory of God, and in whose splendor all peoples will walk (cf. Apoc 21:23ff) [NA, 1].

I do not apologize for bringing all these texts together here once again because it is from these texts that Asian theologians take their inspiration for developing a new theology of religions.

Two Perspectives

All these texts can be seen from two perspectives. First, from the point of view of the missionary tradition of the Church, these texts assert the presence and action of God in every human being. But God’s action is fully revealed in Jesus and in the Church. Therefore, everyone must find fulfillment in the Church. Second, while God’s saving grace is available to every one, the other religions play no role in this process. At best they represent the human efforts to reach out to God. Christianity then comes as God’s response. Evangelii Nuntiandi, written by Paul VI after the special synod of Bishops on evangelization, says:

By virtue of our religion a true and living relationship with God is established which other religions cannot achieve even though they seem, as it were, to have their arms raised up to heaven (EN, 53).

The "seeds of the Word" may be found scattered in other religions. But they do not change their character as natural (as opposed to supernatural) and human (as opposed to divine) efforts (EN, 53). The documents of the Council do not really go beyond this point of view. Even this limited positive acknowledgement of other religions was new for the Christians in Euro-America, though Jean Danielou had written earlier about the "Holy Pagans" in the Old Testament.

For the Asian Christians, these Council texts came as a confirmation of the positive view of other religions that they had adopted much earlier, though it was in the "preparation-fulfillment" paradigm. In India, for instance, Brahmabandav Upadhyaya, already at the end of the 19th century, thought that Hindu philosophy and religion would find their fulfillment in Jesus and the Gospel and, more specifically, in the theology of Thomas Aquinas (Cf. Animananda 1947; Lipner 1999). J. N. Farquahar wrote a book pointing to Christianity as the Crown of Hinduism (1913). In the 1930s, Pierre Johanns, a Belgian missionary, wrote a series of essays under the general title: To Christ through the Vedanta, showing how various Vedantic philosophical traditions reach fulfilment in the scholastic theology of Thomas Aquinas (Johanns 1932-33). Jules Monchanin and Henri Le Saux had shown their appreciation of the mystic traditions of Hinduism by founding an Indian Christian ashram in 1950. To the Asians, therefore, the Council came as an inspiration to go further in their relation to the other religions. What encouraged this movement, however, is their living contact with the believers of other religions.

An Asian Development

In 1964, when the Council was still in session, and even before the adoption of the document on other religions, an international seminar on "Christianity and Other Religions" in Mumbai said that "the whole of mankind is embraced by the one salvific plan of God which includes all the world religions."1 It suggested that for one "who is not confronted in an existential way with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they can be the channel of God’s saving grace" and hence "the historical way to God for their followers."2 We see here an affirmation that the other religions play a positive role in God’s plan for the salvation of the world. The people of other religions, therefore, are saved, not in spite of, but in and through them. A research seminar on Evangelization and Dialogue in Nagpur (India) in 1971 suggested that "the religious traditions of the world can be regarded as helping him towards the attainment of his salvation…, (and) the different sacred scriptures and rites of the religious traditions of the world can be in various degrees expressions of a divine manifestation and can be conducive to salvation."3

Such a positive attitude is confirmed by the Asian Bishops at their First Plenary assembly in Taipei in 1974.

In Asia especially this (evangelization) involves a dialogue with the great religious traditions of our peoples. In this dialogue we accept them as significant and positive elements in the economy of God’s design of salvation. In them we recongize and respect profound spiritual and ethical meanings and values. Over many centuries they have been the treasury of the religious experience of our ancestors, from which our contemporaries do not cease to draw light and strength. They have been (and continue to be) the authentic expression of the noblest longings of their hearts, and the home of their contemplation and prayer. They have helped to give shape to the histories and cultures of our nations. How then can we not give them reverence and honor? And how can we not acknowledge that God has drawn our peoples to Himself through them? (Rosales and Arevalo 1992:14)

At their second assembly in Calcutta in 1978, they were positive to the prayer methods and traditions of Asian religions. They said:

Sustained and reflective dialogue with them in prayer (as shall be found possible, helpful and wise in different situations) will reveal to us what the Holy Spirit has taught others to express in a marvelous variety of ways. These are different perhaps from our own, but through them we too may hear His voice, calling us to lift our hearts to the Father (Rosales and Arevalo, 35).

The Theology Advisory Committee of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) published a set of Theses on Interreligious Dialogue in 1987. Explaining Thesis 2 which accepts religions as "significant and positive elements in the economy of God’s design of salvation," it says:

Its experience of the other religions has led the Church in Asia to this positive appreciation of their role in the divine economy of salvation. This appreciation is based on the fruits of the Spirit perceived in the lives of the other religions’ believers: a sense of the sacred, a commitment to the pursuit of fullness, a thirst for self-realization, a taste for prayer and commitment, a desire for renunciation, a struggle for justice, an urge to basic human goodness, an involvement in service, a total surrender of the self to God, and an attachment to the transcendent in their symbols, rituals and life itself, though human weakness and sin are not absent.

This positive appreciation is further rooted in the conviction of faith that God’s plan of salvation for humanity is one and reaches out to all peoples: it is the kingdom of God through which he seeks to reconcile all things with himself in Jesus Christ. The Church is a sacrament of this mystery—a symbolic realization that is on mission towards its fulfillment (LG 1:5; cf. BIRA IV/2). It is an integral part of this mission to discern the action of God in peoples in order to lead them to fulfillment. Dialogue is the only way in which this can be done, respectful both of God’s presence and action and of the freedom of conscience of the believers of other religions (cf. LG 10-12; Ecclesiae Sanctae 41-42; RH 11-12) [Gnanapiragasam and Wilfred 1994:13].

John Paul II

John Paul II has also gone further than the Council in his appreciation of other religions. In October 1986, he invited the leaders of other religions to come together to Assisi to pray for peace in the world. Commenting on this gesture, Marcello Zago, who was the chief organizer of this event, said:

At Assisi, the welcome given to the religious representatives and people being present at the prayer offered by various religions were in some way a recognition of these religions and of prayer in particular, a recognition that these religions and prayer not only have a social role but are also effective before God (1987:150).

In his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, John Paul II affirmed formally the presence and action of the Spirit in other religions and cultures.

The Spirit manifests himself in a special way in the Church and in her members. Nevertheless, his presence and activity are universal, limited neither by space nor time (DEV 53)… The Spirit’s presence and activity affect not only individuals but also society and history, peoples, cultures and religions… Thus the Spirit, who "blows where he wills" (cf. Jn 3:8), who "was already at work in the world before Christ was glorified" (AG, 4), and who "has filled the world,… holds all things together (and) knows what is said (Wis 1:7), leads us to broaden our vision in order to ponder his activity in every time and place (DEV 53)… The Church’s relationship with other religions is dictated by a twofold respect: "Respect for man in his quest for answers to the deepest questions of his life, and respect for the action of the Spirit in man (RM, 28-29)."

Two Approaches

Such recognition of the presence and action of God in other religions still leads to two different approaches to the way we relate to the members of other religions. John Paul II goes on to say:

Whatever the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of people, in cultures and religions serves as a preparation for the Gospel (RM, 29).

Dialogue with the members of other religions then becomes a means and a way to the proclamation of the Gospel leading to the others becoming members of the Church.

The Asian Bishops, however, speak in different accents. They distinguish between the Church and the Kingdom of God. They think of the dialogue with the members of other religions as a common journey towards the Kingdom of God. The fulfillment in the Kingdom may transcend history. In their response to the Lineamenta before the Asian Synod, the Indian Bishops say:

As God’s Spirit called the churches of the East to conversion and mission witness (see Rev 2-3), we too hear this same Spirit bidding us to be truly catholic, open and collaborating with the Word who is actively present in the great religious traditions of Asia today. Confident trust and discernment, not anxiety and over-caution, must regulate our relations with these many brothers and sisters. For together with them we form one community, stemming from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth. We share with them a common destiny and providence. Walking together we are called to travel the same paschal pilgrimage with Christ to the one Father of us all (see Lk 24:13ff, NA 1, and GS, 22).

It is an accepted principle that we cannot comprehend a mystery; before it, our attitude needs to be one of reverent acceptance and humble openness. God’s dialogue with Asian peoples through their religious experiences is a great mystery. We as Church enter into this mystery by dialogue through sharing and listening to the Spirit in others. Dialogue, then, becomes an experience of God’s Kingdom (Phan 2002:20-21).

The Indonesian Bishops affirm:

Since in all religions and traditional religious beliefs the values of God’s Reign are found as fruits of the Spirit, to the extent that there is good will they all strive towards the coming of the Kingdom (Phan, 26).

The Bishops from the Philippines suggest:

The synod should correct or at least clarify what the Lineamenta seems to do—to equate the Church and the Kingdom of God… In the social context of the great majority of Asian peoples, even more use should be made of the model of the Church as servant, a co-pilgrim in the journey to the Kingdom of God where fullness of life is given as a gift (Phan, 39).

A theological consultation on "Evangelization in Asia" organized earlier by the Office for Evangelization of the FABC had stated:

The Kingdom of God is therefore universally present and at work. Wherever men and women open themselves to the transcendent Divine Mystery which impinges upon them, and go out of themselves in love and service of fellow humans, there the Reign of God is at work… "Where God is accepted, where the Gospel values are lived, where the human being is respected… there is the Kingdom." In all such cases people respond to God’s offer of grace through Christ in the Spirit and enter into the kingdom through an act of faith…

This goes to show that the Reign of God is a universal re ality, extending far beyond the boundaries of the Church. It is the reality of salvation in Jesus Christ, in which Christians and others share together; it is the fundamental "mystery of unity" which unites us more deeply than differences in reli gious allegiance are able to keep us apart (Eilers 1997:200).

The context in which Asian theologians speak about dialogue between religions is harmony (Eilers, 285) between peoples. We can see that in Asia the focus is not on the Church, but the Kingdom of God and dialogue is seen as an element in the common pilgrimage of all the peoples towards the Kingdom. Dialogue is not seen as a first step and an instrument to found the Church, though we are open to welcome any one who is inspired by our witness and feels called by God to become a disciple of Jesus in the Church.

Dialogue and Spirituality

Whatever be the tensions regarding the aims and purpose of dialogue among the theologians and leaders of the Church, many believers in Asia have sought to profit by an interaction with the believers of other religions—with the exception of the Muslims, in recent years. Many Hindus, following M. K. Gandhi are open to honor and follow Jesus as their Guru. They appreciate his moral teachings. M. M. Thomas has recorded this tradition (Thomas 1969; Samartha 1974). Today there are groups of Christubhaktas or Hindu devotees of Christ. Bhikku Buddhadasa of Thailand has introduced Christianity to the Buddhists.4 Thich Nhat Hanh of Vietnam and the Dalai Lama of Tibet have written about Jesus Christ.5 Aloysius Pieris has shown how Buddhists in Sri Lanka have reacted positively to Christ and depicted him in their paintings. Christians in Asia have been inspired by various Hindu and Buddhist sadhanas (spiritual practices) like Zen, Vipassana, and Yoga (Cf. Abhishiktananda 1976; Griffiths 1982; Pieris 1988; Kadowaki 1992; Senécal 1996; Rao 2002; Amaladoss 2003a). We have the example of Anthony De Mello who has done this at a popular level (De Mello 1978). There are more than 60 Christian (Catholic) ashrams in India today (Painadath 2003), just as there are Zen centers in Japan. There are many centers of Asian Buddhist and Hindu spirituality in the countries of Euro-America, not to speak of the many pilgrims who come from there to Asia. There is also a project of inter-monastic dialogue (Blee 1999). These experiences serve largely to support the Asian perspective on dialogue. They also show that dialogue in Asia has not been a one-way street. The Euro-American "fear" about such interaction, however, is expressed by documents like the letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith warning Christians against Asian forms of meditation and frequent warnings about the dangers of syncretism.

Swami Abhishiktananda has shown that one can transcend dialogue to a level of "double belongingness," when one can experience the Absolute both according to the Christian and the Hindu tradition without either mixing them up or being able to integrate them. One becomes then a "Hindu-Christian." The Absolute is beyond the namarupa (name and form) and the namarupa are neither interchangeable nor "integratable." When Swamiji came to India he was attracted by the advaita (non-dual) experience of a Hindu saint called Ramana Maharishi. He began practicing, searching for the same experience, with the help of a Hindu Guru. Trying to understand it, he set it in the context of the Trinity, finding this as a fulfillment of the advaita (Abhishiktananda 1993). After years of sadhana he claimed to have experienced the advaitic oneness with the Absolute. His attempts to reconcile it with his Christian experience of the Trinity, however, did not seem to succeed (Abhishiktananda 1998). I think that at the end of his life he accepted both the experiences as true, but different. Some of the people who were reading his writings said that he had become a Hindu; others thought that he remained a Christian. He prayed the psalms and celebrated the Eucharist till the end of his life. Here is an example of an intra-personal dialogue between religious traditions in depth. This can nourish theological reflection. Such an experience is not for every one. At the same time, there are others with similar experiences (Gira and Scheuer 2000).

New Directions in Dialogue

The tensions between theologians within the Church concerning interreligious dialogue seem secondary if we look at the violence between religions that we are experiencing every day in Asia and in the world. This experience is pushing us to think of dialogue in new ways today. At the purely religious level, we believe that God’s self-revelation in Jesus is ultimate and definitive. Our theologizing takes this for granted. But when we meet other believers we realize that the Buddhists are not concerned about God and revelation, that the Hindus consider God to be too infinite to be confined in one historical revelation, that the Muslims are convinced that Muhammad is the final prophet. The Hindu avatar Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita that even people who worship other gods come to him because he is the only true God. Muslims are convinced that everyone is born a Muslim, before they are socialized into other religions. We cannot, therefore, carry on a dialogue taking for granted our own convictions. We cannot offer rational proofs for our convictions either. If we do not take this concrete context into account, our talk about dialogue will remain abstract and ideological.

Besides, religions do not live in isolation. They are only one element in society which is made up of other elements like economics and politics, person and society, and culture.6 Being an element of social life, religion tends to integrate with the other elements. Doing so, it ends up accepting and justifying them. There are, however, believers in every religion who, in the name of the Transcendent, are critical, not only of the unjust use of religion for promoting economic, social, and political ends, but also of the unjust economic, social, and political structures. One example should suffice. Paul who asserts that in the risen Christ masters and slaves and men and women are equal (Gal 3:28) ends up advising women to be subject to men (Eph 5:24) and slaves to be obedient to their masters (Eph 6:5).7 In our discussions about dialogue we think only of God’s self-revelation in Jesus and his continuing presence in the Church. But when we are in dialogue with other believers we realize that the others do not have only this ideal image about us. They look at the Christian community in history. They look at what the Christians have done to the others in the crusades and in their colonies. They think of the world wars that the Christians have fought. They see the globally exploiting economic and political powers today (Euro-American) as "Christian." They will not buy our facile distinction between the "‘good" Church and its "evil" members. If we become aware of this, our own ideal image of ourselves will be downsized and we will be less patronizing in approaching the others. Such a reflection can, of course, be made about every religion. That is why any talk about interreligious dialogue today must start with an analysis of the role of religions in society, especially with reference to conflict.

Religions in Conflict

Conflicts can be caused by many factors like economics, politics, ethnicity, race, etc. Why do religions get mixed up with them? (Amaladoss 2003). I think there are three reasons. Religion is a deep source of group identity, because it roots such identity in trans-human and trans-historical factors like the Absolute, revelation, and special divine vocation. It is often used as a rallying point when a particular group feels economically, socially, or politically oppressed by another group. Invoking the "good" God on one’s side, the other is identified with the evil one. Destructive violence in the name of God then becomes possible. The war becomes a "holy war"—jihad or crusade. When religion becomes a source of identity in this way it becomes easy for the leaders to make people believe that a group that shares a particular religion also shares the same economic and political interests. This phenomenon is called communalism in South Asia. Then economic and political struggles become also religious ones. The hold that religion has on the group is further strengthened by suggesting that their religion is the only true one. This is religious fundamentalism. This is rooted in a literal interpretation of the scriptures or in a popular religious symbol. Emotional identification then becomes easy. Any one of these causes is sufficient to provoke inter-religious violence. Sometimes all three may be present. The conflicts between the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, the Muslims and Jews and the Muslims and Christians in the Middle East, the Hindus and Muslims in India, and the Muslims and Christians in the Philippines can be analyzed from this point of view.

Why should we speak about dialogue in such a conflictual situation? All religions believe that there is only one God and that this God has a plan that embraces the whole universe. All religions also believe in peace. We need not, however, speak for the other religions.8 Jesus Christ has given us the new commandment: "Love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 15:12). He himself showed this love in sharing (Jn 15:5-6), service (Jn 13:2-14), and self-gift, even unto death (Jn 15:13). He was totally nonviolent. He reached out to the Samaritans, (Jn 4:5-30), pagans (Mt 15:21-28), and other outcasts of his time (Mt 9:10-11).

But what is dialogue in such a situation? Meeting between leaders of different religions asserting that all religions stand for peace may have a symbolic value. Occasional interreligious prayer services may also play a similar role. What can we do at the level of the people? Recent studies have shown that there is less incidence of religious violence in a multi-religious community when it realizes that it has common economic and political interests (Varshney 2002). In such situations violence is often instigated and perpetrated by outside groups. The basic task then is not religious, but human. People must experience and become aware that they are living together as a community. Their lives are interrelated. Their community interests transcend their religious divisions. That is why Asian theologians speak of the need for Basic Human Communities or Neighborhood Groups instead of the Basic Christian Communities of which liberation theologians speak. Such fellowship at a local level can already remove the stereotypes and prejudices that usually poison the atmosphere between different religious communities. This fellowship can develop when the community collectively engages itself to promoting the well-being of the community like keeping the neighborhood clean; building and supporting a school or a health center; increasing community facilities like good water supply, playing grounds and recreational parks, a common library. Such projects would involve meeting together, discussing, protesting, demanding, or doing something together, and confronting the representatives of the government. The community must also invent occasions for common celebration like national festivals, sports events, mutual presence at the social level of religious festivals, and so on. The equal rights of all religions must be recognized. There must be an active public space in the media and other forums where political projects and options could be discussed without prejudice (Amaladoss 1999:39-47). Such discussion can lead to an "overlapping consensus" on action programs, while each religious group draws motivation and inspiration from its own resources. In the course of the discussion a sharing of these perspectives will lead to a dialogue also at the level, the human context of life together. This dialogue can be mutually challenging and enriching. Without such interaction, being good neighbors is not easy (Miller 1999).

In a situation of interreligious conflict, however, such community building activity will have to be preceded by efforts at conflict resolution and reconciliation (Amaladoss 1999:21-35). Basically, again, the community has to have a will to live together. Then it could focus, not on retributive, but restorative justice (Tutu 1999). Where there has been violence there must be recognition of responsibility and acknowledgement of guilt in a context of mutual forgiveness and reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa offers us a model (Daye 2004). This is not easy and it may not be totally adequate. But something has to be done if the community wants to live in peace without constant suspicion and tension.

In every community there will be a few individuals who are attracted to explore the theological and spiritual traditions of the other believers. Their interaction will lead to mutual prophecy and enrichment. This must be encouraged and made possible. The students in the schools must be introduced to different world religions, preferably by people who believe in and practice those religions.


Theology is for life. It must help us Asians to live our lives better as Christians in our multi-religious societies. The openness to other religions that has characterized the last 40 years is welcome. The many meetings of Asian Bishops in the area of interreligious dialogue have been preceded by an exposure to and experience of the multi-religious reality of life in Asia. (In the future, perhaps they should be more exposed to conflictual situations, not excluding violence.) This has kept their reflections and proposals practical and relevant. This has not always been appreciated by the central authority in the Church. Its theologians tend to be more a priori and abstract. But John Paul II’s appeals for interreligious prayer for peace in the world show a practical concern that goes beyond the theoretical reserves of some of his theologians. This contrast between the center and the periphery was evident when John Paul II traveled to New Delhi to officially publish the document Ecclesia in Asia. In that document he said, referring to Asia: "We can pray that in the Third Christian Millennium a great harvest of faith will be reaped in this vast and vital continent (Ecclesia in Asia, 1)." He asked the Asian Bishops "to spread the Gospel of salvation throughout the length and breadth of the human geography of Asia."9 But Cardinal J. Darmaatmadja, responding on behalf of the Asian Bishops, said: "Yes, it is true that there is no authentic evangelization without announcing Jesus Christ, Savior of the whole human race. But for Asia, there will be no complete evangelization unless there is dialogue with other religions and cultures,"10 thus placing dialogue at the center of the concerns of the Asian Church.

The attempts at dialogue by the Asian Christians have been hindered by their lack of inculturation. They still present a foreign image and evoke colonial memories. Their efforts even to speak about an Asian Church, theology, or spirituality are frowned upon as the phrase the "Church in Asia" (Ecclesia in Asia) shows. Though Jesus is Asian, he comes back to Asia after passing through Euro-America, decked up in non recognizable foreign masques and institutions. The Asians are proud of their millennial cultures and find it difficult to relate to these masques, especially when they are sought to be imposed.

Because of the threat of terrorist groups, inspired by religious ideology, though the actual reasons for terrorism are economic, political, and cultural, people everywhere have become sensitive to the relations between religions. But authentic dialogue is possible and meaningful only if it accompanies, or is even preceded by, a sincere effort to encourage peace and harmony through promoting freedom, equality, and justice among peoples of all nations and religions. Dialogue is not an easy and cheap substitute for equality and justice. Interreligious dialogue can only be a deeper dimension of a larger dialogue between peoples at all levels of life.


  1. Neuner 1967:21-4 for the conclusions of the conference. The quote here is from the Conclusions, I.1.
  2. Ibid. I.2 and III.4.
  3. Pathrapankal 1973; The final declaration is on pages 1-16. Here Declaration, n.13.
  4. Vénérabl Buddhadasa, Un Bouddhiste dit le Christianisme aux Bouddhistes (Paris: Desclée).
  5. The Dalai Lama, Le Dalaï Lama parle de Jésus (Paris: Brepols, 1996). Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ (London: Rider, 1995).
  6. For a scheme for an integral analysis of society see Amaladoss 1994:30-42.
  7. The Letter to the Ephesians may have been written by a disciple and represents a later historical moment.
  8. Because they can speak for themselves. See Amaladoss 1997.
  9. See Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection 63 (1999) 883.
  10. Ibid., 891.


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