Lake Taal offers an incredibly beautiful panorama, and this year it seemed more so than usual. The temperature at the beginning of March was still perfect, and in the evenings a fresh breeze continued through the night until the mist rolled in around the time the sun rose.
Every two years in this part of the Philippines (Tagaytay is a bit more than 40 km from Manila), there has been a course on interfaith dialogue, and this year the chosen title was “Harmony between peoples and religions today.”
The School for Oriental Religions (SOR) was founded in 1982 by Chiara Lubich during her trip to Asia. Today the Mariapolis Pace in Tagaytay hosts a training center and various courses for young people, families, priests and seminarians. In addition to SOR, there are two social aid centers.
Two hundred participants gathered at Tagaytay from March 2–5, from Pakistan, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Japan and of course the Philippines. There were also some Europeans and South Americans. All saw the need for training in order to face the universal challenges that diversity brings. The course is planned to be repeated in participants’ respective countries.
Cardinal Louis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila and president of Caritas International, addressed the group. The Filipino cardinal opened the school by proposing the theme of harmony.
Harmony: a typical Asian value. In order to achieve it, one needs to keep in mind that everything changes, and that as one moves forward, the more this change comes rapidly.
“The only thing that doesn’t change is change itself,” Tagle affirmed.
What is required, therefore, is to stay open and not have any fear of the unknown. In addition, one needs to know how to mediate the differences, accept opposing positions and the possibility of conflict, and to come through it greatly enriched by the differences.
Tagle appealed to Catholics to play a lead role with active nonviolence. This is not about being weak, rather demonstrating that working for harmony requires people who have a prepared mind and heart for dialogue and diversity.
The four days saw presentations of the successful dialogue between Christianity and the great Eastern religions in India, Thailand, Korea and Japan.
Hindu-Christian dialogue was presented through life experiences, social collaboration, and shared projects between the Focolare and Gandhian movements in the south of India, including philosophical and theological reflections. Classic Hindu song was demonstrated and explained.
All this occurred in an atmosphere of vital, spiritual clarity. Commonalities have surfaced after many years of dialogue, as well as differences, but these have not lessened the drive to take on dialogue’s challenges.
This experience contributed to fulfilling the message of the Second Vatican Council: to build deep relationships with those of other faiths. A new way has begun that can contribute to social, political and global harmony. It is not an end in itself, but a step toward true fraternity.