Catholic and Muslim leaders meet for dialogue on secularism
By Estefania Aguirre
Milan, Italy, Jun 21, 2013 / 01:00 am (EWTN News/CNA)
The members of a foundation seeking to improve Christian and Muslim relations met in Milan this week to discuss the growing problems of global secularism and extremism.
“Secularism and ideology are two problems for Christians and Muslims today, in different ways maybe, but the topic is the same,” Maria Laura Conte, editorial director of Oasis International Foundation, told CNA/EWTN News June 17.
“We want the West and East to share experiences,” she added.
Experts met June 17 and 18 at the University of Milan to discuss the tightrope between secularism and ideology so often walked in both the West and the Middle East. This was the tenth annual meeting of the Oasis International Foundation.
“Through meetings like this where people can share their experiences, we can build a piece of this dialogue every day,” Conte said.
Speakers came from a wide variety of nations, including Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Pakistan, the United States, France and Italy.
They included Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan and the network’s founder; Sami M. Angawi, president of al-Makkiyah al-Madaniyah Institution in Saudi Arabia; La Sorbonne professor Rémi Brague; Cardinal John O. Onaiyekan, archbishop of Abuja; and Jawad al-Khoei, a Shia leader from Iraq.
Cardinal Scola founded Oasis in 2004, after he was asked to do so by seven bishops of Damascus while he was rector of the Pontifical Lateran University.
The Damascene bishops hoped for cultural support in the midst of Syrian society, and the foundation has served as a forum for inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue.
The Knights of Columbus have been supporting the Foundation since its creation ten years ago.
Carl Anderson, head of the Knights, called on Americans to “have some solidarity” and “extend a helping hand” to Christian communities in predominantly Muslim countries.
“If we don’t want Christian communities to disappear altogether, we’re going to have to spend more effort and greater attention to their plight and begin to develop ways of solidarity,” Anderson said at the conference June 17.
Anderson, who is a member of Oasis, noted that “the first thing is a recognition that there is a crisis in many countries and we have an obligation to respond to that crisis.”
“I hope Americans are more and more aware, because the situation in many countries is very difficult now,” he told CNA/EWTN News. “We Americans, have to redouble our commitment to religious liberty.”
He stressed the need to “understand that in many places of the world, even if we don’t hear about it, the test of the free exercise of religion is going on in various strenuous conditions.”
“It’s requiring many people to make great sacrifices, day in and day out.”
Anderson's comments were echoed by Cardinal Scola, who asked that Christians in the West show “love and support” to their brothers in the Middle East.
Catholic children in Thailand participate in inter-religious dialogue
By Antonio Anup Gonsalves
Bangkok, Thailand, Jun 20, 2013 / 03:15 am (EWTN News/CNA
Local Catholic children in Bangkok participated in fellowship with other faith groups to foster inter-religious dialogue and peaceful relationships among different communities.
The group contained members of diverse faith backgrounds, including Buddhists, Muslims and Catholics, as well as their religious leaders.
The encounter program was organized under the leadership of Fr. Anucha Chaowpraeknoi, chaplain of the Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Emergency Thailand, in collaboration with the Moral Promotion Center of the Royal Thai Government.
Fr. Chaowpraeknoi told EWTN News that “through this, we aim to explore the ethics of traditions in other religion and impress on the young minds a sense of common good, thus developing their moral values of fidelity and honesty.”
These activities cannot be a “substitute to Catechism,” he stressed, but rather, they “reinforce” the understanding of Catholic doctrine and how it is incorporated into practical living.
Inter-faith dialogue “empowers” the faithful “to live and to love their neighbor,” striving to create a “peaceful society,” he added.
He pointed to Pope Francis, who has urged Church leaders to engage in “fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges between communities.”
Sister Kannikar Eamtaisong, director of Sacred Heart Orphanage, told EWTN News that Catholics must “live out the teachings of Jesus Christ,” which include the commandment to love and live in union as brothers and sisters.
Our true faith life is complete only when our spiritual life is put into practice through “love and charity,” she said.
“This program unwinds prejudiced mind to know other faiths,” she explained, and this in turn “reaffirms” the understanding and belief of one’s own faith.
Starting at Santa Cruz Church, the children walked to a local temple and mosque, dialoguing with the religious leaders and learning about their beliefs and prayer.
At the Buddhist temple Wat Thewarat Chakunshonvoraviahan, the Superior monk discussed “the importance of honesty” in life.
He encouraged the children to practice “honesty of personality, of time, of the word, of responsibility, of piety and finally honesty of self.”
One student participant told EWTN News after the event that while she often finds such talks boring, the inter-religious visit and discussions with leaders were interesting and the students now “feel committed.”