Earlier this week I participated as a moderator on one of the panels in a two-day symposium sponsored by the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning on Christian Faith in a Multifaith World. (The Jay Phillips Center is a joint project of the University of St. Thomas and St. John’s University in Collegeville and it does some marvelous programming.) The symposium marked the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Nostra Aetate, the Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.
The panels included Christian-Hindu Encounter, Christian-Buddhist Encounter (the panel I moderated), Christian-Muslim Encounter and Christian-Jewish Encounter.
Although I could not attend all four panels, I found much in those I attended that was worthwhile – and worth further reflection. Here I’ll just share one or two observations from one of the speakers, with the hope that the video of the symposium will soon be available. (Ultimately there will be a book containing the presentations.)
Ananatanand Rambachan began his presentation on the Christian-Hindu Encounter panel with the important observation that interreligoius relationships do not occur between religious traditions but are initiated and sustained by persons who embody the traditions to which they are committed. That means that developing meaningful relationships with people of other traditions is important so that we can engage in dialogue without feeling the need to conceal our core theological commitments and values. I was reminded when he was speaking of Pope Francis’ emphasis on a culture of encounter. True encounter opens us to the integrity of the other.
The second observation of his that struck me was that the Christian and Hindu common affirmation of the truth of a universal God who is the source of all existence is not a theological footnote. Rather it is fundamental for Hindu-Christian relationship and we need to contemplate its implications for how we see each other. He added (a line I loved): The tent of Abraham is too small for God. We might reflect on the ways we try to limit God.
I hope these two observations give a small sense of the richness of the symposium. For some other nuggets from the event, see my friend Richard Burbach’s post here.