Statistics show a rise in anti-Semitism around the world, including in Australia. Islamophobia continues to trigger harassment and violence towards Muslims. Analysis shows that Christians are the most persecuted group in the world. To build positive relations between believers from different religions, interreligious dialogue is needed, now more than ever.
Vatican II was a watershed in the Catholic Church’s relations with other religions. In the subsequent years, the Catholic Church developed substantial teaching on interreligious dialogue, yet this teaching remains unknown to most Catholics. The preaching and teaching of interreligious dialogue is needed, now more than ever.
During 2019, in the preparatory stage of the Australian Catholic Church’s 2020 Plenary Council, over 222,000 people participated in listening and dialogue encounters and contributed 17,457 submissions. The results were summarised in a 314-page document, Listen to What the Spirit is Saying to the Churches. Interreligious dialogue is not mentioned. Promoting interreligious dialogue as integral to the mission of the church is needed, now more than ever.
Pope Francis and other world religious leaders meet in friendship on various occasions. International conferences are held and agreed documents are published. But the cordiality and concord remains mostly at the level of the leaders and does not reach the followers in the congregations. The spreading of interreligious dialogue is needed, now more than ever.
Interfaith activists meet locally and become friends, attend the same interfaith events and share platforms together. They like each other’s posts on Facebook. But they are mostly talking to each other and to the converted and do not seem able to reach the wider population. The popularisation of interreligious dialogue is needed, now more than ever.
The above challenges of interreligious dialogue are enormous. However, I take comfort in the words of Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Let us each then, do our little bit, that combined will become a tidal wave of interreligious dialogue to change our globalised world.
Fr Patrick McInerney