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Wednesday, February 6, 2013
The 2013 Course on Dialogue with Eastern Religions was held in Bangkok, Thailand, on 1-3 February. The sacred Scriptures of these religions were explored as a contribution to world peace.

“Discovering the Scriptures of Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam and Christianity and how they contribute to peace and harmony” is the title of the course that gathered together 290 members of the Focolare Movement from India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Australia and many others from different regions of Thailand. It was a real cross-section of Asia, whose goal was to deepen knowledge of the world’s Great Religions from the East and to be trained for mature dialogue.

The meeting was highly anticipated, following the last one that was held in the Focolare’s “Mariapolis Pace” in the Philippines, in 2011. The course was opened by the president of the School of Dialogue with Oriental Religions (SOR), Archbishop of Bangkok, Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithanavanij who stated in his opening remarks: “The different religions consider their scriptures to be sacred in different ways. But there is one thing they have in common, and it is basic: they are all fonts of wisdom.”

Competent presenters included: Dr. Seri Phongphit from Bangkok for Theravada Buddhism; Dr. Donald Mitchell for Mahayana Buddhism; Professors Adnane and Mokrani for Islam; Philipp Hu for Confucianism; Stephen Lo for Taoism and Luciano Cura for Hinduism. Bishop Roberto Mallari from the Philippines presented his reflections on the Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini. And as a summary of the main theme of the course, Andrew Recepcion, president of the International Association of Missiologists (IACM), offered an illuminating lesson on the New Evangelisation in Asia, in relation to interreligious dialogue.

The fact that the SOR was held for the first time outside the Mariapolis in Tagaytay permitted the participants to immerge themselves in Theravada Buddhism which is typical of Thailand and of the entire South East Asia. The approach toward Buddhism was not limited only to delving into its Scriptures at an academic level, but entered into concrete life, thanks to the experiences of Metta and Beer, two Buddhists who have been in friendship with the Focolare since 1980. Deeply moving were the video clips in which Buddhist monks shared impressions concerning their personal relationships with Chiara Lubich, accompanied by personal experiences which they lived after encountering the ideal of unity. It was inspiring to everyone. Professor Donald Mitchell, who could not be present personally, presented his lesson via Skype, linking the SOR of Bangkok with Purdue University in the United States.

The atmosphere of communion enabled participants to understand the lessons not only intellectually, but spiritually as well. Many said that they had understood interreligious dialogue on a much deeper level, as a lifestyle and not as an activity to be carried out. The “SOR 2013” was particularly significant for Asia in this Year of Faith; and interreligious dialogue turned out to be a bridge not only to an understanding of other religions and cultures, but an encouragement to understand one’s own Christian faith. Fr. Vicente Cajilig O.P. underscored how the interreligious dialogue of the Focolare Movement offers concrete answers in different ways to the deliberations of the Federation of Asian Bishop Conferences (FABC).

The participants returned to their homelands grateful for the ideal of unity that leads them to live their Scriptures, the Word that makes them discover the “true self”. They left committed once again to living the charism of unity more intensely so that they might be a gift within the Church.


marcos roberto dos santos

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 03:49

esperamos que realmente seja um caminho para que as religiões e estados regidos por elas se respeitem e respeitem a liberdade de culto e expressão de fé.Porque aqui no brasil todos são bem vindos e aceitos com suas mais variadas praticas de fé e ninguem os pertubam ,perseguem e matam impiedosamente em nome de algum deus ou deuses como acontecem em países que tem a religião com lei como os Hinduístas ,os híslâmicos e etc….. cristãos sendo mortos na híndia e na africa sem piedade nehuma

    Roberto Catalano

    Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 09:35

    La scuola che si è tenuta a Bangkok è stata soprattutto per i cristiani onde assicurare una formazione al dialogo. Infatti, essendo la popolazione cristiana dell’Asia una minoranza (con l’eccezione di Filippine e Corea del Sud) le comunità spesso trovano difficile aprirsi al contatto con persone di altre fedi. Capita di trovarsi in una posizione di difesa. La Chiesa incoraggia molto i cristiani ad aprirsi ed il nostro corso era mirato proprio a questo.

      Roberto Catalano

      Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 09:35

      Per quanto riguarda la posizione delle altre religioni bisogna tener conto sia della storia degli ultimi secoli dove il cristianesimo è stato spesso imposto e, quindi, le conversioni sono oggi percepite come un problema dalle culture asiatiche. Inoltre, molti problemi dei cristiani in diverse parti del continente non sono sempre di carattere religioso, ma sociale o politico.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 23:50

The filipino volunteers look so serious in this picture. I hope they could also share their experiences in Bangkok of concretely living unity with our Buddist friends. Thanks.