Christian Muslim Dialogue: A Call for Greater Solidarity
M.A.Leo Anand SJ
The Indian multi religious, multicultural and plural context is a diverse society with its unique heritage. This context it is an imperative factor for facilitating dialogues and for building up positive relationships. The much appreciated plurality of the Indian context allows us to have our individual space and enriches us in various spheres of life. Society at large is universal and exhibits various modalities and specifications in each individual and in groups. And harmony is not only the key word but also an essential phenomenon which pervades our context and which makes us find meaning in our living together. Our coexistence with different faiths and beliefs must sustain and nourish our lives and faiths so that we respect and foster the growth of the other. Harmony comes from the Greek word Harmonica, which means “to join”. To join means to be related and not to oppose, to join hands, to come together, to be united. Unity being the outcome, dialogue is the means by which this unity is promoted, strengthened and propagated. Christian Muslim dialogue in the Indian subcontinent has its own distinctive advantages necessities as minority religions.
The Indian Context
The multicultural Indian soil with its rich traditions, cultures and religious realities make it a unique model of harmonious living in the East. Philosophy and theology go hand in hand here and the people of various traditions have learned to live by appreciating the difference but at the same time have not lost the identity of their own beliefs. This brings with it a whole question of unity in universality which blooms with the acceptance of the other and remaining faithful to rich local traditions. People are very much acclimatized with this scenario of being rooted in ones tradition. This plurality is still a surprise for the West which tries to make things uniform. Plurality in India emerges with religions and cultures and emanates in various forms, in languages, ethnic groups and in all walks of life. India being a cradle of many religions has always nurtured them with learning and understanding with harmony as its principle. Thus India stands as an apt example for the embodiment of pluralism in the global scenario. The plurality which is experienced in India is an expression of richness and open-mindedness in respecting both the self and the other. It speaks of the nature which is in harmony, the cosmos in rta, the life in its flow of energy showing the symbol of integration with its diversity. The law of nature brings in a balance to promote life and thus sustains and propagates the very nature which is growth and evolution.
Christians and Muslims in this context have the duty to build up the bond of cordiality and transcend from each one’s boundaries and build peace as there is deterioration of this stable amity. Many recent narrow minded dividing forces have poisoned people with their ruthless and inhumane ideologies. Thus there is a greater threat for India’s harmony which has been preserved for ages in a very unique way. As there is greater danger of fundamentalism to democracy and religious freedom we need to be aware of the situation and take necessary proactive steps to safe guard the long preserved integrity by ancient wisdom. As there are more antagonistic and hate campaign arising and promoted by some anti harmony miscreants we have the very urgent need for promoting dialogue. Dialogue is not a crime to be condemned but a healthy attitude and indispensable disposition which need to be cultivated and strengthened in our present generation citizens. Dialogue is one such wisdom which has helped our subcontinent to relate with one another in a more civilized way. Dialogue makes us more enlightened and will lead us forward to abundant peace and harmony in our land of super diversity. Though there is a lot of communication taking place in today’s world with advanced media technologies yet all communications are neither ethical nor working for the welfare of people. Dialogue is one such means by which we communicate with the other in a more meaningful way by sharing the insights we gained through our faith and readily listening to others’ experience as well.
Solidarity in Relationality
Community belongingness is seen in Christianity and in Islam and in other religions too. No one is isolated or alienated when it comes to religion. Religions always speak about the well being of the fellow human beings and even of nature and the cosmos. This notion affirms the primacy of God Who created everything. This community bond is expressed as Koinonia in Christianity and Ummah in Islam. This principle of solidarity which binds all the faithful of the respective religions does not sideline the others; it only starts with the faithful and the solidarity is extended to others in the human family at large. “The individual responsibility is continuously linked with the well-being of the whole”. Living in a multi religious and a multicultural scenario like the Indian subcontinent, the whole is not only defined in terms of faith or a particular group but the whole human family which needs a greater solidarity. This solidarity if not expressed in terms of wholeness, it may lead to a collective selfishness and thus fermenting fundamentalism and discord. As we aim at harmony and overall well-being, greater solidarity with the fellow humans becomes the starting point of dialogue and development for the welfare of the entire human family- the creation of God.
When we think of community we think in terms of the close affinity bond which exists among the members of any community. Here it is the faith or the common belief which binds the entire community as one entity. Ummah brings in a concept of transnational bond existing among the Muslims like that of the Koinonia which also shows a similar type of faith relationship. Consanguinity in faith is to nurture, promote and propagate one’s own faith and the faith of the larger faithful. When we see a group of people united it may be for a cause and for many reasons. Insecure feeling is also a part of such coming together when the group is living in a minority situation. The coming together in terms of faith and religions also needs a wider perspective of brotherhood which in turn focuses on the interrelations and the proactive interactions which has to happen among the peoples. Relationality is not something which is restricted only within religions and within subgroups but has to find its root in the reality of the basic human existence. In and through relationality we expand our interactions to the larger community. No one is alone and cannot be an island. All have to be in relation to one another. That is where we strike the chord of one human family. We are indeed bound by the responsibility towards our fellow co-humans as we journey in time and space and thus we share in the collective vision of the one humanity created by God.
A Light to Guide: Oneself and Others
Every community seeks for some guidance and a common principle- an orientation, to which it would allow its members to live peacefully. Individual persons too need to be enlightened to guide one’s own self. An effective and discerning leadership animates the community with the fresh air which brings joy to the community- the others. Leadership makes this possible by pastoral guidance by the priests in Christianity and by Imams or elders in Islam. The holy rules are interpreted according to the signs of times by the enlightened leaders who could make the community enlightened. Leading the community is a responsible task by which the community could be enriched with positive interactions and effective and innovative humanizing responses. The leaders of different communities come together and also induce and inspire others to work for a common or greater cause which facilitates the greater good of the wider community by our liberative outlook. Leadership within the community and with other communities helps us to build a new world of progressive community. Leadership interactions and representations are also part of the dialogue. Leadership makes a change and with that change it is possible to march forward for a liberative collaboration in guiding and leading the flock. We do find some leaders who come forward to take such a lead to bring about peace among people of good will.
Our dialogue between Christians and Muslims in India brings about a better understanding about our perspectives and prepares us to collaborate in our concerns. Our collaboration in talks has to lead us to deeds by which we have the opportunity to concretely express our ideals more tangibly. Very often our discussions remain as theoretical ideologies and there is no praxis which could take shape from our good-will. We may have grand desires and intentions but if there are no actions then our dialogue will only be a mere bombastic socializing. Dialogue has to be taken ahead with the coming together of practical and possible interventions for greater needs which would alleviate human pain in all possible ways. With constructive collision our solidarity within our communities could be extended meaningfully to those in need. Dialogue is a call to share our richness and enrich others. Sometimes dialogue is seen in terms of mutual coexistence. A dynamic dialogue will rather build bridges and facilitate and promote more and more of harmony.
Living in harmony primarily presupposes the harmony within one’s self and in the wholeness of life. Shalom- over all well being, could be another word for harmony. This harmony springs up from the inner self in silence, in awareness, in interiority, in freedom, in acceptance, in love and in creativity. We also see harmony outside of us as a result of harmony within ourselves. The external harmony is an extension or an arising from the inner acceptance.. When individuals strive for this harmony, there is always a by-product of this quest affecting the other and the whole of society at large as the whole is interrelated. The butterfly effect shows that all realities are interrelated. This relatedness, in a way, means that we are responsible for the other. Harmony is not a situation without conflict but a belongingness which brings in the human family much closer to one another and to the ultimate reality- God. If harmony is a situation then dialogue is the necessary condition which would vaccinate us to resist the infection of isolation, alienation and fundamentalisms.
The Indian context of pluralism with its higher degree of tolerance shows us a harmony which exists similar to that of biodiversity and cosmic harmony which exists in nature by itself. Faith has to consider the culture and context of people. It should also take into account the people of other faiths who are with us. Our way of life, which reflects our faith has to take into account the situation of the surroundings. Christians and Muslims as minority religions have already added essence to the lives of the rest of the Indians in so many ways. As responsible citizens of India we need to dialogue with an open mind more to spread ripples of peace and harmony to us and to others for a better future of unlimited joy. Human dignity as an image of God becomes a basic synthesis of harmony and unity. With this initial foundation we begin to relate with others as agents of God. Though religions may be of different nature, the human element pervades the whole approach and thus becomes more humane. Religious freedom is a gift in the plural context and has to be maintained with enriching dialogue and collaboration for the common good of all. The inter cultuality and the interreligious dialogue have to enable us for a better understanding for a harmonious living.
It is the open mindedness and the deep grounding in faith which help us to deepen our faith and to appreciate the goodness in others by the process of dynamic dialogue. Unity in diversity is the hallmark of our Indian nation. We know that unity is strength. Fundamentalism, superficiality, regional affinity, caste driven attitude and closed minds will not help us to be interiorly free either as individuals or as a society of cultured human beings. Life of faith needs works of faith too. Joining hands and reaching out to the needy always brings in the joy of sharing. When we join hands for the works of faith we strike the chord with harmony as the foundation which echoes Rta in the cosmos and Shalom in the lives of all human beings who share in the image and likeness of God. Thus through dialogue and coming together for common good we would be able to create a new world with harmony as the language which everyone could understand and everything will be like music and dance with perfect synchronization and resonance which will always fill the entire world with peace, joy, happiness and contentment to its fullest fullness.