From the 1st- 3rd April the School for Oriental Religions (SOR) organised a course in the Focolare’s little-town called ‘Peace’ in Tagaytay (Philippines). There were 250 participants from all around Asia: Pakistan, India, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and Japan. The majority of those who took part were from various islands in the Philippines especially Manila and Cebu.
SOR was founded in 1982 by Chiara Lubich on her first trip to Asia when dialogue between members of the Focolare Movement and the mahayana Buddhists from the Rissho Kosei kai began. SOR runs biennial courses that aim at giving formation to Christians from around Asia for dialogue with members of the continent’s religious traditions. Both in 2009 and in this year’s course, opportunities for an exchange of experiences accompanied the formation.
Visiting SOR one can not help but think of the Ancient Greece’s ‘Agora’: a place to openly discus challenges and problems that arise in the various cultural contexts such as Pakistan. It also provides an occasion to share prophetic experiences such as the dialogue that takes place with the monastic Theravada Buddhism in Thailand. We can’t leave out the recent events in Japan: following the earthquake and nuclear crisis members of the Focolare and of the Rissho Kosei kai managed to face the tragedy together in a true spirit of friendship and reciprocal support thanks to the relationships already built. Dialogue at an academic and social level in India with various Gandhian organisations and academic institutes also shows great promise.
Despite many common spiritual characteristics that can be seen throughout Asia, each country and cultural area has its specific traditions. Differences can also be seen in the relationships between Christians and members of Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and cultures such as Confucianism and Taoism. The Focolare Movement experiences the challenges that the Catholic Church faces in these worlds at first hand.
During the presentations given by the working groups at SOR’s course, dialogue and evangelisation clearly emerged as two different aspects of the Church’s sole mission; a mission that must place personal and, above all, communitarian witness at top importance so as to guarantee a constructive and credible presence for announcing Jesus Christ. On the other hand Asian cultures often gather and intuit aspects of faith that Western Christianity have not yet valued nor deeply understood.
This year the School for Oriental Religions focused on the aspect of love in the different cultural and faith traditions. The presence of Archbishop Mons. Francis Xavier Kriegesak, the school’s dean was much appreciated as well as the contributions given by the monk prof. Phramaha Sanga Chaiwong, abbot of an important temple near Chang Mai in the North of Thailand, and by Julkipli Wadi, a Muslim professor of Islamic Studies at the University of the Philippines.
Three days of dialogue and exchange that will produce “suitable antidotes for fundamentalism and intemperance”, not only in the long run but straight away.
Source: Città Nuova