His Excellency Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Side Event entitled: “The Other is a Good for Me: The role of interreligious and intercultural dialogue in addressing violence, conflict and building lasting peace in the world today.”
United Nations, New York, October 13, 2017
Excellencies, Distinguished Panelists, Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
I heartily welcome you to this event on the role of interreligious and intercultural dialogue in peacemaking and peacebuilding in the world today, which the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See is happy to be sponsoring together with the Catholic Movement Communion and Liberation, represented here by its President, Fr. Julián Carrón.
Today’s event is entitled “The Other is a Good for Me,” which is based on a subtitle taken from the first Chapter of Fr. Carrón’s recent book Disarming Beauty. This subtitle points to, I think, three basic insights for interreligious and intercultural dialogue to be meaningful and effective in helping to lead a multicultural and religiously pluralistic world to peace.
The first insight is that interpersonal dialogue is the foundation of intercultural and interreligious dialogue. Dialogue is not just an exchange of words or ideas or position papers. It’s an exchange of persons who speak and think, and often differently. Over the course of the last half-century, even though there has been a lot of talk about the importance of dialogue between persons, faiths and cultures, in many places it has scarcely risen above the level of monologue. Genuine dialogue presupposes that each side wishes to know each other and desires to increase and deepen its knowledge of each other.
The second inference is that for interpersonal dialogue to be sincere, it must acknowledge with respect each interlocutor’s beliefs and the culture that flows from those beliefs. True dialogue happens in appreciation for each other’s intimate convictions. Even if there are serious differences in terms of what people believe or value, there is a need to acknowledge the good that attracts the other to value it and order his or her conduct and life according to those values. In various places today people can focus so much on what divides that they end up rejecting other persons as a whole when they cannot accept one of their religious tenets or cultural values. Even believers can sometimes fail to appreciate the extraordinary virtue found in those of other religions, like the dedication to prayer, the sincerity of compassion and charity toward the unfortunate, the living by conscience even at the point of suffering, as well as the persons’ humility, goodness, hospitality, courage and other good qualities.
That brings us to the third insight. For interpersonal, interreligious and intercultural dialogue to foster the common good, it must be driven by the conviction and awareness that the other is a good both in himself or herself, but also a good for me and the world. The other is not a threat. The other is not a competitor in an unending battle of survival of the fittest. The other is not an evil to be marginalized or eliminated. The other is an objective and subjective good.
The Book of Genesis says that when God created the human person, he saw and pronounced the person to be “very good.” Those who see with this Biblical divine worldview should strive to find, affirm and revere this goodness, and not be blinded to it by what is not in common. Moreover, believing in a Creator from whom all draw their origin, must be consequential in the way people treat each other. It should lead to an authentic fraternity, solidarity and culture of encounter on the basis of which authentic pluralism, harmony, and peace can be built. Differences among sons and daughters of a common Creator should not lead them to recapitulate the story of Cain and Abel, in which envy and a failure to exercise fraternity led to death for one and a lifetime of insecurity and guilt for the other. Rather, the recognition of the other’s divinely-bestowed dignity, and the rights flowing from that dignity, should guide us toward a standard of fraternity.
Pope Francis talks about this principle as “caminar juntos,” of journeying together, convinced that once people of different cultures and backgrounds, neighborhoods or nations, ethnic or religious roots, begin to walk together, they begin to recognize how much humanity they have in common, how much beauty and goodness exists in each other, and how much wisdom is imbued in the way the other approaches the most important questions of human life. This caminar juntos is a dialogue of life, sharing joys and sorrows. It’s a walk of friendship. It’s a journey that begins with conversations like the one we are having today here at the United Nations.
I thank you all for coming today to participate in this interpersonal, interreligious and intercultural conversation, and I look forward to your active participation in the discussions that will follow the presentations.