Interreligious Dialogue in Asia: A look at the past to understand the future

Benoit Vermander, SJ

 Benoit Vermander, SJ / 1902 / 30 January 2019

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Over the last decades interreligious dialogue in Asia has faced some tough challenges. Even though many religious leaders, organizations and thinkers have been working constructively and efficaciously, at the popular level religions often limit themselves to coexisting rather than engaging in dialogue and collaboration. Besides, tensions and conflicts, both short- and long-term, continue to be all too frequent.

Two reasons explain the difficulties that are faced in this field. First, conflicts are very rarely “simply” religious: they are generally mixed with ethnic, political, economic and social factors. Second, believers instinctively tend to underline the specificity of their own creeds and their own style of life, rather than allowing other experiences of faith to be expressed together with theirs. Yet, everyone knows that the social, cultural and political development of Asia depends mostly on the way that the religions traditions and communities of this continent not only coexist but also cooperate.

In this article we seek to offer some perspectives on the future of interreligious dialogue in Asia, first considering “the roots in the past,” not only the experience of recent decades. Distance can help us evaluate the problems under another perspective and plan out a sort of “projection” of how that dialogue might evolve in the Asian context.

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